This week On the Reading Rest I continue discovering the Gulli-Langåker publications (OtRR 17 March, 2014) and read about the grave in the burnt-down house at the Sem prison in Vestfold, Norway. The publications are in Norwegian.

Ölfvin ölversikt 01

Illu00Grindkåsa, Line. 2012. Boplatsspor og grav fra romertid-merovingertid på Jarlsberg og Tem (lok. 8, 9 och 10)—[Settlement remains and grave from RIA-MP at Jarlsberg and Tem (sites 8-10)] In: Axel Mjærum and Lars Erik Gjerpe (eds). 2012. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Dyrking, bosetninger og graver i Stokke og Sandefjord.  E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 1. Oslo Fagbokforlaget. In Norwegian. Acronym: LiGri

Jarlsberg is not just a cheese. Much more importantly, and as LiGri points out in her introduction to the historical context of her sites, it was the King’s manor Sæheimer – ‘the homestead by the sea’ and according to Snorri Sturluson’s Ynglinga saga (13th c. CE) an important place in the old Kingdom of Vestfold already in the late 8th c. CE, i.e. in the beginning of the Carolingian Iron Age (CIA). The Gulli-Langåker sites 8-10 were not part of the King’s manor, but part of a farm c. 3 km to the west at the bottom of Byfjorden, the Town Fjord, the ‘town’ being today’s Tønsberg.

Illu01Circa 500 CE the shortest path from the farm to the sea, but probably not to a suitable landing site, was already 600 m long running towards the southeast. Owing to the shore displacement caused by the isostatic uplift, the present-day farm Auli 600 m east of sites 8-10, became the prolific farm site either in the Early CIA, or in the beginning of the Late CIA. LiGri points out that the meaning of the name Auli – Ölfvin = alfr+vin, which means ‘gravel pasture’ doesn’t match today’s Auli, but well the farm at the sites 8-10, suggesting that sites 8-10 could have been the original Auli. Being a –vin name, the date of a farm once called Ölfvin would correspond to the chronology of the farm at sites 8-10.

Since, today, there is no farm called Ölfvin we may as well use the name for the sites 8-10. There was probably at least one more farm east of Aulielva, the Auli river, along the northern side of the fjord between Ölfvin and Sæheimer, that is today’s Jarlsberg, whose situation was the better.

Illu02Archaeologically speaking, the site Ölfvin has EIA roots, but the excavated sites represent the northern outskirts of a farm site used mainly after 500 CE. Sites 8 and 10 are almost empty indicating that more intensive EIA activities took place south of and above Site 9 and House 1. Ölfvin is situated at a crossroad where the north-south road coming from higher grounds south of the farm crosses the Auli river further north on its way to Jarlsberg. The east-west road passes from higher grounds in the west, south of Byfjorden and further east. The agricultural landscape of the Ölfvin farm stretches northwards between the Auli- and Merkedamselva.


Probably the excavation covers the northern part of the farm and its main building. Seen as a series of events, what has been excavated is a site that was to begin with a farm. The farm house which was designed as a South Scandinavian house and as far as it can be measured from the plan, the measuring rod, divided into feet, was used when the post holes were set out.

Ölfvin House 1 measures

When the house was burnt down, an inhumation grave was immediately dug down into the scene of the fire in what had been the dwelling part of the house more precisely in the center of its chamber, i.e. the southernmost room of the dwelling quarters. In the centuries that followed a small cemetery of grave mounds clustered around the inhumation grave and the house. The inhumation grave is in other words a founder’s grave and a rather peculiar one. The way the context builds up around the house-grave meets the eye and suggests that Ölfvin became a place with a history.


Situated 7 km west-southwest of the Oseberg grave as the crow flies from Ölfvin, we are in an area where the symbolic link between house and grave was exploited, inasmuch as the Oseberg ship in its capacity as a grave was organized as three rooms in one end the hall – the kitchen, the chamber, where the two women were buried – and the storage. The Oseberg grave is grave, ship and house in one. We may thus venture to look at the Ölfvin house and its inhumation in the chamber, similar for instance, to the male boat grave Valsgärde 8, as indeed both a house and a grave – a paired monument surrounded in its upper end by later grave mounds and a context explained by its development. Eventually the memorial scene would have stood out as an arena in front of, and slightly below the mounds.

As LiGri has stressed the inhumation grave was in all probability dug down into the remains of the house shortly after the fire that ruined the building, and she sees a possible connection between the house, the fire and the dead. This seems to be a plausible interpretation and since the context is so unusual it is difficult to see the scene as an example of a regular procedure in connection with someone’s death. On the contrary, it would seem more reasonable to reconstruct a series of related events eventually creating the context: (1) the fire, (2) the death, (3) the burial and (4) the subsequent construction of the scene commemorating the dead.

If we ask ourselves when this happened the possibilities to give a precise date are exceptionally good because the grave and not least the house has been so meticulously excavated and dated by means of no less that 23 14C tests.


The 14C dates from House 1 and 2 capture the sporadic presence on the site up and until c. 500 CE when House 1 was built. There is a small time gap between the first house dates and the last four, which dates the fire. The samples behind the dates were taken from the shallow ditch, which drained the water falling off the roof towards the north – hence the opening in the northwest corner of the house. The ditch nevertheless was also a temporary garbage heap. The time gap among the 14C dates represents the fact that the farm was continuously kept tidy allowing only a few charred fragments – that is a very small part of the garbage – to be trapped in the ditch. However, when the house burnt down it was impossible and pointless to clean out all the charred remains which also filled the ditch together with fragments of its wattle and daub walls. LiGri thinks that the latest 14C dates associated with the house were part of the wattle in the daub wall, but some indications speaks against this interpretation: (1) a small twig of Salix was found in a post hole; (2) the wall was burnt at very high temperatures, 850-1000 degrees Celsius, which no wattle in the wall would have survived;(3) the sample consist of Juniperus, alnus and salix. The two fist species are not particularly well-suited for wattle; (4) the most significant indication speaking against the samples representing a late reparation of the wall is the time gap, the frequency of the late dates – they are relatively speaking many – and the very similar dates of the four youngest samples. Moreover, they and the gap belong to a period when the calibration curve falls relatively steep and thus there ought not to be very many dates belonging to this section of the curve and certainly not either none or several.

In order to explain this gap LiGri suggests that the wall was completely rebuilt shortly before the fire broke out, but that is not likely. A wattle and daub wall is built in relatively short sections – panels c. 1 metre wide between vertical posts below a horizontal wall beam – and there is no need to wait for the whole wall to collapse before starting to repair it. On the contrary, the wall construction makes continuous reparations the most probable. It would seem more likely, therefore, that the four last contemporary dates represents the fire and that the gap mirrors the general character of depositions on settlements. That the ditch was relatively empty, that is, open when the fire broke out is suggested by the presence in the ditch of the burnt remains of the wall.

The distribution of the dates therefore allows us to model the time of the fire in two ways:

Illu06(1) we may take the four dates to represent one date in which case they theoretically represent bp 1466 +/- 15 or


(2) we may wiggle match the four dates to the calibration curve. In both cases their likely date is slightly before 600 CE. Given the fact that the samples are young branches, on average less than 20 years old, the fire at Ölfvin House 1 would seem to have taken place circa 615 CE. This is some decades earlier than suggested by at LiGri, but well within the chronological frames of the artefacts that equipped the grave.

Since it was not possible to excavate the whole farm at Ölfvin, villas and prison surrounding it to the south, we cannot know when a place name such as Ölfvin could have been given to a farm on the site. It may have been prior to 500 CE, that is, the time when House 1 was erected. Since the 6th c. is characterized by a number of new large farms and settlements, such as Old Uppsala (after a settlement hiatus), Lejre, Tissø, Stavnsager, as well as slightly less impressive places such as Valsgärde or Mørup (0) it is not inconceivable that the excavation has dated a -vin name to c. 500 CE.

Illu08Although we do not know, who was buried in the grave it would seem that the house and the human being in the grave came to an end simultaneous. We may, however, argue that the dead man wasn’t killed in the flames and high temperatures that would have acted upon his body as a pyre. Although the grave is a weapon grave, it hardly belonged to a grown-up man because the body, probably in a supine position, was confined to a narrow and short pit, 0.7×1.5 m. The weapons were arranged on top of the body partly below the shield, i.e. not next to it or in positions that would imitate the way weapons were supposed to be worn. The sword was 90 cm long and would have been difficult to handle for anyone short enough to fit a narrow grave length of 1.5 m. It is thus not a warrior’s grave. On the contrary, it is a symbolic installation of a martially equipped man – probably a young person of rank. Rather than preserving the warrior the installation exhibits social norms.

The link between house and grave would seem to indicate that the deceased belonged to the house, living in the chamber where he was buried, but instead of doing the usual, letting a grave imitate a chamber or a house, the remains of the building itself make up the memorial scene. We are entitled to say that instead of being rebuilt, the house and perhaps the farm site too, came to an end. Needless to say the events that led up to the fire and the burial may have been so traumatic that they in themselves stood out as a reason to create the memorial.

In the centuries that followed, it became important to attach grave monuments to the memorial and thus in all probability also to the person in the primary grave. The vi-character of the layout, that is the V-shaped design of an Old Norse sanctuary, meets the eye although the symmetry isn’t perfect.

Similar to the horn blower at Ellekilde (OtRR 6 February, 2012) the man or boy at Ölfvin attracted a flock of graves, and we may argue that he probably had attractive social or other qualities. He may not have had them to begin with, but in that case they developed over the years creating a legend about him and making him one of those who went before the rest of us and from whom we may benefit in death. It doesn’t take an installation such as Ellekilde or Ölfvin to commemorate or create such a person. A founder’s grave or in principle any grave in a cemetery may be considered to contain a person valuable to descendants and linked to legend. Nevertheless, it is interesting that as late as 600 CE a material narrative about an individual can be employed to create an outstanding dead, who eventually came to represent a growing group of dead. This group may consist of a limited number of kinsmen and the man’s fame of an accordingly a limited saintliness, but kinship groups will vary in size and popularity attracting and adopting larger and smaller numbers.

A devil’s advocate may have gormandized in ‘de-hallowing’ South Scandinavian Iron Age paragons of virtue, but that is of little importance because contexts such as Ellekilde and Ölfvin already suggest that even in Scandinavia a saint could be more or less outstanding, and his otherworldly abode – in Norse terms his ‘helgafell’ – thus more or less capacious (1). The answer to ‘Not Another Saintly Chap?’ therefore, is: Yes! The man at Ölfvin is yet another outstanding saintly Iron Age chap from South Scandinavia! And there may be many more. And they may be part of a tradition already 350 years long from Ellekilde to Ölfvin. If so, I suggest they be called ‘hallows’ commemorating an archaic word and usage with roots in Old English hálga—saint.



(0) These sites are well-known on the www or mentioned in

(1) there is a book chapter on helgafell by Odd Nordland on the net:,%20Valhall%20and%20Helgafell.pdf

översiktskartaThis week On the Reading Rest I have three volumes from the Norwegian E18 project, the contract archaeology carried out between Gulli and Långåker. The volumes are impressive and they are part of the significant development of Norwegian contract archaeology that has taken place because of the many carefully designed excavation projects in connection with the new highways southeast and southwest of Oslo (0).


Gullilangåker framsidorMjærum, Axel and Gjerpe, Lars Erik (eds). 2012. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Dyrking, bosetninger og graver i Stokke og Sandefjord.  E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 1. Oslo Fagbokforlaget.

Gjerpe, Lars Erik and Mjærum, Axel (eds). 2012. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Jordbruksbosetning og graver i Tønsberg og Stokke.  E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 2. Oslo Fagbokforlaget.

Gjerpe, Lars Erik (ed.). 2012. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Oppsummering og arkeometriska analyser. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 3. Oslo Fagbokforlaget.

There are almost 1,000 pages to read, but I have chosen to look at the Hørdalen Area, Site 51. This site is a field system containing cleared fields, intensive soil improvement, a droveway alignments, clearance cairns, linear cairns, etc, etc.

This means that I read two chapters:

Mjærum, Axel. Dyrkningsspor og fegate fra eldre jernalder på Hørdalen (lok. 51) In: E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Jordbruksbosetning og graver i Tønsberg og Stokke.  E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 2. Acronym: MjAx

Cannell, Rebecca J. S. The application of multi-elementalanalysis at Hørdalen (site 51): an evaluation of methods and results. In: E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Oppsummering og arkeometriska analyser. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 3. Acronym: CaRe

And the relevant section, pp. 132-147 in:

Svensson, Nils-Olof and Regnéll, Joachim. Vegetationsdynamik och merkanvändningshistoria längs vägsträckan Gulli-Langåker i Vestfold. In: E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker. Oppsummering og arkeometriska analyser. E18 prosjektet Gulli-Långåker, bind 3. Acronym: SveRe

The early surveys and investigations at Hørdalen, followed-up by the project designed by the contract archaeologists and the archaeometrists involved, have resulted in stimulating results that add to our knowledge and open up a window towards a more hypothetical discussions, which may be interesting in the future when it may become possible to investigate field systems and farms united as one context. In the following I will look at the results from Site 51 in relation to such a future scenario.

site 51 surfaces

The Hørdalen area and Site 51 has been understood as a gentle W-E slope characterized by nutrient-poor soils consisting of a slightly higher A-Surface and consequently a slightly lower B-Surface. Despite the soil qualities this slope has been developed into a field system used for more than a millennium. In many ways earlier analyses have been confirmed and become less monothetic owing to the new investigations, but archaeological features, chemical multi-element analysis and paleobotanical analyses have shown that the border zone between surfaces A and B must be understood as an area in its own right dominated by clearance cairns and an oven area. In fact the AB Surface and the western part of the B Surface, which is dominated by cairns and the oven, can be seen as a transition from surface B to surface A. I will treat it as AB+B Surface as a unit creating a triparted site. Site 51 represents an agricultural space developed and used for centuries in different more or less intensive ways. The Hørdalen Area of which site 51 is just a part was probably used continuously, but when singling out site 51 a more varied usage comes to the fore.

jämför Gausel Hördalen

Before the beginning of the Common Era, the curves are quite similar at Gausel and Hørdalen as indicated by the parallel green lines inserted into the above illustration. It is conceivable to explain this similarity by suggesting that the investment in labour has led to a certain outcome – increase in investments leads to an increase in productivity. The period of investment belongs to a period in which Bronze and Early Iron Age farms are not yet stable, but nevertheless linked to a specific settlement area and thus able to use the same field system reaching it from different farm sites, some being more optimal in relation to the system than others.

In the beginning of the Common Era and during the following centuries, investments at Hørdalen drop, but at Gausel the outcome represented by the charred seeds found in the Gausel excavations, grows. Tentatively we may conclude that adding nutrients to the fields more effectively, for instance bringing livestock to the fields at intervals and collecting more dung in the byres, may explain the difference. Bringing manure into the fields from a stable nearby farm seems more manageable than bringing it from less stable farms with a variety of situations. However, bringing farm hands to a field system from different farms, investing labour in burning and slashing as well as in clearing the site, seems a logistically straightforward possibility already in the Bronze and Pre Roman Iron Age. Since transportation costs are low when clearing fields and making ashes on the spot, it is more easily organized than bringing in nutrients, which is expensive in terms of transportation.

Since Gausel represents a larger area than Hørdalen Site 51, which may represent nothing but itself, the seeds at Gausel probably had more sources other than just one field system. Hørdalen, therefore, could have been given up for all kinds of irrelevant reasons unknown to us, but if for the sake of the discussion, we suggest that it is more likely to fit into a general pattern, as indeed it did up and until the beginning of the Common Era, rather than a deviant one, then the expected change in farm size and settlement stability in the beginning of the Common Era could indicate a shift in labour investment from developing visible clearings to adding ‘invisible’ nutrients. Moreover, with stable farm sites, slash and burn farming will be more difficult to imagine given the deforestation that will take place around a farms with a stable position in the landscape.

Site 51 Hørdalen, with the droveway on the B Surface, indicating a nearby farm, probably 80m north of the excavation area (MjAx:187 with reference), has a place in the human landscape as well as a formation history. If we analyze the 14C dates the formation can be termed additive as well as varied.

surface dates hördalen investments

Given the dates on the different surfaces (and I do not take the problematic optically stimulated luminescence dates, the OLS, into account) the formation of the site is additive inasmuch as Surface B is the first to be developed, followed by extensions, Surfaces AB+B (framed by a green line on the map) and A. It seems significant that little by little and up and until the beginning of the Common Era investment periods gradually become shorter and more intensive. They are indicated by green shades in the above figure. Moreover, it was uncommon that investments peaked in two surfaces at the same time. As MjAx, CaRe and SveRe all point out, the site is intricate and time seems to be a decisive factor when it comes to the complexity of the site. It seems that when the system has been created it may have been and probably was used for many different agricultural purposes.

Although CaRe is cautious in her conclusions it stands to reason that the A Surface has received more nutrients as a result of anthropogenic activities than the B Surface. As a correlation to this surface character, the 14C-dates indicate a chronological dimension to the surface division suggesting (1) an earlier period of investments into the construction of cairns clearing of fields and (2) a later period in which manure was more important and investments thus less visible. As SveRe shows the fields were not used continuously, but alternating with periods when animals grazed and fertilized the fields.


The project designers were well-aware that they would not be allowed to link the excavation of the field system with the nearby settlement. Had this been possible the contextual knowledge produced would obviously have been more important and less expensive owing to the research design being more rational. But as long as the Scandinavian countries, where governments have copied each other’s legislation for under hundreds of years, are not prepared to fund a percentage or two of the national cost for contract archaeology to further archaeological development projects that will enhance our knowledge and make contract archaeology less expensive, archaeologists are not allowed to do better that the E18 project. Given the attitudes of heritage boards this Project level is excellent, but nonetheless a matter of little by little setting new archaeological standards whenever Chance and Circumstance makes it possible.

The reason why it is so uncommon to excavate the farm and its fields, 80 metres apart, has to do with the notion of the ancient monument. Up and until WWII ancient monuments were well-defined physical structures preserved into modern times and thus incredibly marginal inasmuch as nobody had bothered to erase them from the surface of the earth. From the 1960s and onwards the invisible human landscape and its ancient monuments, not least from the Iron Age, were recognized, and by definition an ancient monument, instead of being a monument, became an area looking like plough land, small forest and meadows. The most common monument became hectares in central parts of the modern human landscape. The past became almost as large as the present covering large areas with no definite borders. At the same time the past became unspectacular. With hardly any artefacts to show let alone grave goods the Iron Age became full of social science, subsistence economy, social structure, functional and symbolic architecture, etc. The familiar past, that is, the traditional Iron Age, could no longer be mirrored in monuments of death and thus it passed away resurrecting itself as everyday life rather than funeral feasts and burial rites. The past became loaded with its own history, kept alive for instance in field systems that had been used, developed and known for a millennium already in the beginning of the Common Era. No longer monumental, the past started to grow and its contexts became hectares rather than square metres. The heritages boards are unable to cope with the consequences.

Archaeologists know how to excavate the past, but they are seldom allowed to do it. And that is why large parts of 30 and 20 years old excavations stand out as a waste of money and most importantly as a legacy of heritage management. Many excavations have been wasted because they were never reported or because they have been buried in inaccessible archives, but quite a number are pointless because they were, from the very beginning, focussed on pointlessness.

(0) A general discussion about the multi-disciplinary design of a large contract archaeological project and Gulli-Langåker in particular can be found in:
Gjerpe, Lars Erik. 2013. Om arkeometri, en fornøyd arkeolog og jordbruk i eldre jernalder. Primitive tider 15. Pp. 33-57.

This week On the Reading Rest I have an article in German consisting of two articles:

Sommer, Sebastian. 2008. Die Römer in Künzing – Wege zur einer virtuellen Rekonstruktion dess Kastellvicus oder: Versuch der Annäherung an ein Lebensbild—(The Romans in Künzing – roads to .  virtual reconstruction of the vicus of the fort or: An attempted approach to a picture of living space. My translation). Bericht der bayerischen Bodendenkmalpflege, 49. 2008. Pp.107-126 + 128

In the end of the article there is a perfectly autonomous contribution:

Sättele, Manuel. 2008. Methodik der virtuellen Rekonstruktion—(Methods of virtual reconstruction. My translation). Bericht der bayerischen Bodendenkmalpflege, 49. 2008. Pp. 126-28.

Contrary to the authors, acronomised SebSo and ManSä, some readers, who start their German geography with Lech, Main, Mas, Rhein, Inn, Donau, Weser Oder Elbe before they gather that perhaps Inn/Donau is more or less the environment where Künzing may be situated, have only a vague idea where to find Roman Quintana. To many Künzing is at best like Fiesole, Haut de Cagnes, Valtournanche, Gandersheim, Kelso, Vorbasse, Sogndal or Hög i Hälsingland, that is, European places we have perhaps heard about, but cannot point out on a map. The above articles won’t help us perhaps because their readers are required to know the geography of Bayern, but Wikipedia et cetera will (0).

Fig 01

Fig 02Twenty five – thirty years ago it was common to point out that one of the scientific values of reconstructions, despite their propensity to be wrong deceiving the public and the odd researcher, was the fact that in order to obtain a result, reconstruction forced researchers to perform a series of actions that had little or no support in the source material. Ideally, having completed the reconstruction, and being aware of its hallmark, the reconstruction should prompt the researcher to study the source material once again, searching for hitherto undetected significant patterns. The reconstruction was meant to throw new light over the existing records and suggest new ways of recording future investigations in order to produce knowledge. In reconstruction archaeology as in any applied natural science describing something, patterns are detected because the perceived is studied and described on the basis of different models.

In complex human contexts, however, it becomes obvious that although we get a better understanding, for instance of the reconstruction of the Iron Age house in Scandinavia, when using models, we are chasing a fleeing goal that becomes more and more distant because of its growing complexity: now that we have learnt how Iron Age man made use of timber it seems there are no extant suitable woods to be found anywhere in Scandinavian to supply us with the timber. Moreover, the quality of the craftsman and the contribution of his childhood experience to his craftsmanship will be difficult to judge although it may well be important, now that we a have a general understanding of the principles of house construction. Chasing this fleeing goal and trying to answer the impossible questions in order to know more about woods and craftsmanship make up the methodological point of the reconstruction.

Quite a number of words and repeated observations could have been saved had these commonplace insights into problems and possibilities of reconstructions simply been referred to. One might also have started with ManSä’s contribution because it summarizes the character of the virtual reconstruction project arguing along some of the lines sketched above. Referring to these by all means Scandinavian and thus barbaric rather than Roman insights would also have made it obvious that one should think about one’s readers when writing about reconstructions. There is little general purpose in trying to describe why the Kastellvicus at Kastell Künzing – the vicus (settlement) around the Künzing fort – should be reconstructed in this or that way. Instead these steps of the actual reconstruction itself and the report on what precise decisions were taken in the process, concerns mainly those who are supposed to continue the heritage management and carry out possible future excavations in Künzing — not the commonl archaeological reader.

Based on the article alone the common archaeological reader cannot and should not check the foundation of the reconstruction because the common reader doesn’t belong to the local scientific community addressed in the article. The reconstruction is interesting to a wider group of readers and worth reading for the simple reason that it is a platform which demands to be followed up.

The task is simple: reconstruct the Roman settlement and the landscape surrounding it according to a relevant chronological framework for the benefit of heritage management, future town planning, research and the public. Only quite far into the article does SebSo argue for two settlement phases, but the section is easy to find at page 117 ff. and may thus be read in advance by those who think that chronology is an interesting early companion to history.

The point of departure is simple too. The contextual remains divide themselves into two groups. Group (1) consists of areas of relevance to the task. They are either (1:a) that is, recorded before they were destroyed or (1:b) that is, destroyed but void of any helpful records. Group (2) consists of areas in which future investigations may be helpful.

So why not start by making a chronological series of maps, such as phase one and two, of areas (1) and areas (2) with the subdivision (1:a) or (1:b). A possible grey zone between (1:a) and (1:b) may come in handy. Needless to say: if investigations are actually begun at a specific place the division between (1) and (2) may need revision. There is no such series of maps. Implicitly the landscape map is there and somewhere it can probably be found. I don’t doubt that the Bodendenkmalpflege – the heritage board – have these maps. The article, however, has the only following Beilage:

Fig 03

Fig 04Remains, records and documentation govern the reconstruction and SebSom has almost got it right: to begin with, reconstructions of contexts dominated by large formal structures, such a dominant fortress in a specific topographical situation, are built up hierarchically imitating a past reality. This means that even if the vicus is in focus, one should start with the auxiliary fort Quintanis.

The reconstruction should follow a path that runs from – the fort, to the roads – Passau-Regensburg and Künzing-Töging, to the cemeteries, to the streets defining the quarters, to the quarters, the plots, their structure, their houses and the open space in their backyards. One could go further into the diagnostics of the settlement, but to a broader research community there is little point in doing so because the information is already overflowing. Nevertheless, judging from ManSä’s contribution p. 127 it seems that the archaeologists and 3D modelers have each their approach to reconstruction. That may well have been their experience in the Künzing project, but that doesn’t make it true, i.e. a theoretically reasonable situation.

Probably the heritage management has already got its Künzing instrument and the ability to make the vicus an even more interesting site. Likewise town planners in Künzing have something to refer to and the villa owners between Kastellstrasse and Kohortenstrasse may realize that a geophysical prospection in their gardens, and in other parts of the community, could be worthwhile and non-destructive. The Bodendenkmalamt is probably all in favour because the latest edition of Archaeologisches Jahr in Bayern is full of geophysics. Moreover, work was done already in the 1990s on the cemeteries (1).

The only problem seems to be that the project has not been followed up. I may of course be wrong having simply been unable to find the information.

The end product of the article consists of two reconstructions. They are very nice, but they are presented as illustrations informing the public, not as results of a research into the reconstruction of the vicus. Thus they are only illustrations and historical documents since there seems to be no 2nd and 3rd editions of the reconstruction. I may of course be wrong having simply been unable to find the information.

Fig 05

Fig 06

But suppose I am not wrong, then the Künzing project highlights the inability to of heritage authorities and museums to incorporate a scientific approach to knowledge production into their projects. This is not solely due to lack of funding, it also reflects an inability to design projects. Let’s hope I am wrong.


(0) There is a popular description of this part of the Limes in English and German by Wolfgang Czysz, Andrea Faber, Christof Flügel and C. Sebastian Sommer at

(1) See illustrations in the description referred to in note (0) and: Fassbinder, J.W.E., and H. Becker (1993), Kombination von Luftbild und Magnetik zur Prospektion eines urnenfelderzeitlichen Gräberfeldes bei Künzing, Arch. Jahr Bayern, 1992, 180-182.
Fassbinder, J.W.E., and H. Becker (1996), Das urnenfelder-/hallstattzeitliche Gräberfeld von Künzing, in Archäologische Prospektion Luftbildarchäologie und Geophysik, vol. 59, edited by K. Hemmeter and M. Petzet, pp. 139-141, Bayerisches Landesamt f Denkmalpflege, ISBN: 3-87490-541-1.)