This week On the Reading Rest I have a volume of Jean Jacques Rousseau, his dialogues, written in the 1770s. The reason is straightforward. I listened to a presentation of an ongoing project aiming at publish a Swedish translation of the dialogues that has been lying dormant in the archives of the Bonnier media group in Stockholm for almost a century. Both the translator and his foundered translation were intriguing, but since I, and the vast majority of the audience, new nothing whatsoever of the dialogues, they caught my interest because they themselves stood out as a foundered project overshadowing the translator and the translation they triggered (1).

bookmarksOn the web I bought an English copy, which turned out to be a present from one of the three translators of Dialogues to his brother. It showed in the bookmarks. The first was a package slip from the university press between page xxvi and xxvii (Conclusion in the introduction), the second, a folded ‘compliments of …’-card between page 54 and 55 in the later part of the first dialogue and the flawless jeremiads of its conversation. I began wondering whether oddities worthy a smily has had a special link to the dialogues in which Rousseau attempted to judge his career and oeuvre as if he was not himself the public person and writer of his own works.

OmslagRousseau, J-J. (1990). Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques: Dialogues. Roger D. Masters and Christopher Kelly (eds). Judith R. Bush, Christopher Kelly and Roger D. Masters (trans.) Hanover & London. University Press of New England. Acronym: RouDia

The quote from Ovid is central to Rousseau and translating it can be done more or less literally to capture its balance between meaning and metre. Written by Ovid when, exiled to Tomis – today’s Constanta in Romania by the Black Sea – he was as close to the Babarians, surrounded by them culturally and linguistically, as a Roman could be without leaving the empire. Translating the line: ‘I am the barbarian, understood by nobody out here’ imitates some of the rhythm. However, a literal translation: ‘Here I am the barbarian, because by them I am not understood’ captures more of the ridiculous situation in which some bearers of civilisation, Ovid among the Getae and Rousseau among the French, experience the self-sufficient barbarians – not least while speaking to them.

A pre-condition for reading Rousseau or Ovid is to accept the existence of barbarians as a cultural phenomenon and that is difficult. Alternatively, we disregard their use of the concept – considering it a metaphor for their deeply felt alienation and frustration, that is patronizing them from our postcolonial high grounds.

Bild 01In addition to the epigraph, each dialogue has a title: On the system of conduct with respect to J. J. adopted by the administration with the probation of the public; On the nature of J. J. and his habitus; On the spirits of his books and conclusions. It seems, therefore, that the saddening experience of the epigraph results in a systematic civilizational and educational defence project. This project was a failure.

Similar to Ovid who never returned to Rome, Rousseau as Rousseau in the dialogues is stuck with his interlocutor The Frenchmen – that is a representative of the ‘barbarians’ and the middleman between Rousseau and J.[ean] J.[acques]. The reasons why Ovid was exiled are obscure and kept so despite and because of the poet’s hints, and so are the wrongs of Jean Jacques as they are treated in the dialogues. To no avail Ovid sent off poems to Rome and the Emperor. Rousseau read aloud parts of his dialogues to influential persons, and imagined a Royal intervention that would restore his reputation – to no avail.

Since the dialogues between The Frenchman and Rousseau concerns, J.[ean] J.[acques], i.e., real life Rousseau, the author has divided himself into two: Rousseau and the non-present alter ego Jean-Jacques. Ovid in Epistulae Heroidum (Letters of Heroines) splits himself between the exiled poet, real life Ovid, and his alter ego, the heroines separated from their lovers (read: Ovid from the civilized Romans), but his touch is vastly more sophisticated than Rousseau’s rough systematic grip. In fact the parallels between the two are extremely simplistic. Ovid is unbelievably enjoyable compared to the 250 pages of an often rambling Rousseau – arguing, and assessing J. J. There is such a wealth of Absicht in the dialogues that any reader is repeatedly verstimmt (1). Leaving the last bookmark between page 54 and 55 intending to read the following 200 by swooping down on arbitrary pages, is not a bad idea. Not surprisingly, readers acting in this way were anticipated by the ever suspicious Rousseau, who was convinced that this kind of behaviour betrayed a member of the circle of conspiracy that surrounded him.

There is little doubt that Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor illis, must be translated literally ‘Here I am the barbarian, because by them I am not understood’.

The inability to see that one’s own thinking and conduct illustrates a flaw precisely in one’s thinking, springs to the reader’s mind when studying the prologue (On the subject and form of this writing) and epilogue (History of the preceding writing). They frame the dialogues. Although ‘the individual’ and one’s individual identity was cardinal to Rousseau he nevertheless believed that good individuals, in their capacity as citizen, shouldn’t put their private ambitions first. Yet it would seem that Rousseau himself demonstrates a patent lack of this virtue. The whole idea of the dialogue project was to compel others correctly to acquit J. J. – that is Jean-Jacques Rousseau – considering him to be innocent and virtuous, precisely as he himself had correctly judged himself after having put himself on trial in the dialogues. The point was not that the French should accept him with his qualities and faults, they should pronounce him ‘not guilty’ after a fair hearing. They should in other words follow in the footsteps of the The Frenhman who in the last dialogue, after he has been in the country to meet and talk to J. J., says: As for myself, I want to make my straightforward confession to you at this point. I believe that J. J. is innocent and virtuous, and this belief is such, deep in my soul, that it has no need for some other confirmation (RouDia:221).

From a modern point of view, Rousseau’s inability to be a good or ideal citizen, in effect his ability to put his private ambitions first, was partly caused by his mental state which might well have been diagnosed as paranoia. In the epilogue to the dialogues, History of the preceding writings, his description of the intricate circle of conspiracy building up around him is indeed paranoiac. He tries to break the vicious circle in different ways that he finds in concord with his social contract, and fails. In the end, therefore, he breaks the circle the only possible way he can, i.e. by believing himself to escape into complete solitude. He breaks the social contract in order to survive. In the epilogue Rousseau come close to understanding his own paranoiac perceptions of the world around him as a delusion.

In the prologue On the subject and form of this writing written during or after Rousseau had produced the transcription and fair copy of the manuscript, he writes about his lack of time which makes it impossible for him to edit or rewrite the manuscript although he sees its shortcomings: What I had to say was so clear and I felt it so deeply that I am amazed by the tediousness, repetitiousness, verbiage, and disorder of this writing RouDia:5. Before the reader can agree or disagree, Rousseau continues, elegantly turning his clear-sightedness upside down: What would have made it lively and vehement coming from another’s pen is precisely what has made it dull and slack coming from mine RouDia:5.

His self-defensive role is humiliating. Had he been a respected person the tediousness etc. would have been understandable, but now it stems from the method he must employ: I engaged in [writing] it for brief moments only, writing each idea as it came to my and then stopping, writing the same thing ten times if it came to me ten times, without ever recalling what I wrote previously and becoming aware of it only when reading the whole thing too late to make corrections as I shall explain shortly RouDia:5. In the given situation, he tells us that he must write the way he does because under the circumstances he cannot do otherwise – he cannot revise a sentence or compare two. Although Rousseau doesn’t say it, the sympathetic reader shall have to conclude that honesty is all that matters writing down what he feels and thinks as he thinks and feels it, unable ever to correct himself: In the excessive length of these dialogues, he has said nearly all there is to say although it is drowned in a chaos of disorder and repetition however it is there! And good minds will be able to find it RouDia:6. These good minds, to be sure, are the individuals who do not put their private ambitions first.

In the epilogue History of the preceding writings it turns out that Rousseau’s first reader, a learned and trusted man of letters, having actually read the manuscript, tries to suggest some improvements of the text. In so doing he betrays himself to Rousseau as a member of the all-encompassing conspiracy. If by now it hasn’t occurred to the modern reader that she or he belong to the same category, then it is high time to understand that reading the dialogues the way Rousseau wants his readers to read and understand, would deprive them of their individual identity.

Bild 02In the end, therefore, one can argue that the central theme in Rousseau’s work, the tension between the individual and society – in his case the ‘barbaric’ French – allows him to save himself into solitude as soon as he has convinced himself that the conspiracy is a fact. The key scene is the authors experience in Notre Dame, which convinces him that following God’s command, the church has mysteriously changed and produced a grill that prevents him from reaching the altar where he had intended to put his manuscript. By placing it there he thought Providence and the King (Louis XVI, sic!) would have taken care of it and saved from Rousseau from his conspiring enemies. This is such a pointless suggestion that Rousseau has added an explanatory note, which, by the way, shows that his inability to correct himself has ceased. In the note he explains: This idea (R wanted to entrust the manuscript to the above-mentioned man of letters) and that of the deposit on the altar (in order for the manuscript to reach the King) had occurred to me during the life of Louis XV, at which time it was a bit less ridiculous RouDia:249. Indeed, but nevertheless ridiculous. Louis XV died May 10 1774 and consequently Rousseau thought of the reception of the dialogues well before he had completed them. In other words, being humiliated didn’t prevent him from being strategic. Moreover, he tested extract from the dialogues on selected audiences during the years he wrote them.

History of the preceding writings was been written after he completed the manuscript and after a number of paranoiac experiences. The one with the grill preventing him from reaching the altar resulted in the following: At the moment I perceived that grill, I was overcome by dizziness like a man with apoplexy, and this dizziness was followed by an upheaval of my whole being such that I cannot recall suffering anything like this RouDia:248. This experience, which testifies to self-observation if not explicit self-analysis, made him flee the church and never come back. And why should he? It would have been as horrible to come back and find the grille missing, or it gates opened, as it would be to find it still there preventing people from entering. And, if the grill was still locked when he came back wouldn’t somebody slam the church gate, Porte Rouge, behind him trapping him in a cage? Using the main gates was obviously not an option for the haunted philosopher.


Given his paranoiac disposition thinking in the tension between the individual and society enabled Rousseau to think in radically new ways, but it didn’t help him cope with the tension in a coherent way – he was himself the flaw of his own philosophical system. In this way – thinking in new ways and being himself the flaw of his overarching understanding he reminds one of Heidegger whose personal life, double standards and anti-Semitism didn’t chime in with his systematic approach to philosophy. It didn’t bother Heidegger as it didn’t bother Rousseau, since they both subscribed to Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor illis. And they both maintained that they were unjustly persecuted. In their lifetime they were in all likelihood appalling, but having died we can agree with Hannah Arendt who pointed out that what Heidegger did with his social contract was not really important anymore in 1969 when he turned 80 because: Heidegger denkt nicht ‘über’ etwas; er denkt was—Heidegger doesn’t think ‘about’ something; he thinks something (Arendt 1969:894)(3). One suspects that to Arendt, whose relation to Heidegger should have made him acutely aware of the ‘Jewish question’ that he continuously refused to acknowledge — to Hannah Arendt, Heidegger was history and a philosopher unable completely to understand his own identity. Rousseau died 1778, Heidegger two hundred years later 1976, in each their period of transition. The centuries have made it easy to cope with Rousseau and the gap between the man and his thinking considering his oeuvre a historical source material. Probably the publication of the of Heidegger’s ‘black notebooks’, in which his anti-Semitism becomes apparent in the late 1930s (4), is a step in the same direction making his obfuscations easy to see through.

Making Heidegger history on par with Rousseau makes them similar instead of different – this similarity is almost a joke and had they known each other they probably wouldn’t have liked the comparison. But who cares? It is one of the great strengths of history to deconstruct difference, uncover irony, force parallels upon the past — not passing judgement.

(1) Jan Stolpe presented David M Sprengler and his project on , Sprengler’s translation and its background in “Rousseau, Judge of Jean Jacques” . scroll to 6. Other works and click c. Rousseau: Judge of Jean Jacques

(2) This is a quote from Goethe: Man merkt die Absicht, und ist verstimmt—‘Cognizing the intention, one feels disconcerted’

(3)This is a quote from Arendt, H. 1969. Martin Heidegger ist achtzig Jahre alt. Merkur 23:893-902.

(4) On Google, the phrase “Heidegger’s ‘black notebooks'”, returns 5,300 hits “heideggers schwarzen hefte” 659 and “les cahiers noirs de Heidegger” 250.

This week On the Reading Rest I have a report in Swedish from a rescue excavation in an urban exploitation area. During the last 10-15 years archaeologists from UV Syd have pieced together the history of a number of Early Iron Age (EIA) villages and farms in the hinterland of historical Helsingborg, One of these is Gustavslund.

ILLU 00Aspeborg, Håkan & Strömberg, Bo. 2014. H. Aspeborg (red.) Gustavslund – en by från äldre järnålder. Skåne, Helsingborgs stad Husensjö 9:25 (Gustavslund), RAÄ 184. UV Rapport 2014:132. Riksantikvarieämbetet. Acronym: HASB

Today, an area in the outskirts of the town. The present Gustavslund farm (18th c. Mårtenstorp – Martin’s thorp) was founded in 1792 when surveyors established the boundaries of the property and eventually, in 1810, carried out a land consolidation.

ILLU 01By 1810 the EIA settlement area was situated in the grassland at the eastern border of the estate and the westerns border of neighbouring farms. Probably the settlement remains had been invisible and forgotten for more than a millennium. Protected by its peripheral situation in the historical landscape, in itself typical EIA situation, the location of the prehistoric settlement was model – homesteads sitting between two water causes, c. 3 km from Öresund, a little below a flat hilltop, on a slope facing the SW, above a small wetland and brooks suitable for water-meadows – model, but not exceptional. Today, large parts of the settlement area have been excavated accommodating infrastructure, housing and private company offices along a road. This road follows an old N-S divide in the landscape, a parish border as well as the border of Gustavslund. When this zone was made a ring road, Österleden, in the late 20th century no excavations took place at Gustavslund and some parts of the settlement area were damaged prior to the investigations in the early 2000s. The southwestern parts of the settlement have not yet been excavated probably because they are not yet threatened by the growing town.

ILLU 02 Similar to the excavations at Västerås – the focus of OtRR 6 October 2014, 1 December, 2014 and 3 November, 2014 – once begun by Håkan Aspeborg, HA in the above acronym, the excavations in the outskirts of Helsingborg have been archaeologically most rewarding. And the present report adds considerably to the overall picture.

HASB has identified four settlement sites – three in the present report and one in an earlier publication (1). They conclude that in the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era the settlement area was a small village consisting of (at least?) four farms and covering c. 400×200 m or 8 ha. This village may be described as a settlement phase in which suitable, but spatially loosely defined sites, which had been used sporadically in the preceding centuries, were now permanently settled for a longer period.

The 14C-dates give a general picture of the chronology of settlement in the area with a strong emphasis on the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era. Precisely dating the beginning of this village period is difficult, owing to the flat calibration curve, but the end of the village phase is less difficult to pinpoint.

ILLU 03Because of the general character of the 14C-dates we may add the ones from the earlier excavations in the eastern part of the village and look at the chronology of the 4-farm village, as HASB do when they sum up Gustavslund (HASB:73-88). The site was used sporadically for hundreds of years before the village was established in the late PRIA and given up in the ERIA. Nevertheless, the area that was once the central part of the village saw stray presence as late as the 5th century CE.


Analyzing the 14C-tests in Bcal (2), we can date the end of the village relatively sharply, modelling it in three ways. First (A) we may consider that the tests that belong to the last 20 14C-years of the village period represent the end of the settlement. There are six tests dated between 1953 and 1933 bc. Modelling the end of this phase returns the period 31 to 137 CE with a 95% probability and 56 to 94 CE with a 68% probability.

We may also (B) consider that these last six dates represent the same end date and pool them. In that case the pooled date is somewhere between 22 to 85 CE with a 95% probability and 52 to 75 CE with a 68% probability. This analysis neutralizes the probabilities stretching into the 2nd c. CE, induced by the calibration curve, but the basic hypothesis is nevertheless questionable.

Lastly (C), we may ask what the probability is that a certain year is older than the end of the village phase. This analysis returns the most reasonable understanding of the end date – a date in the last half of the first century CE. Method one and two match each other supporting the interpretation that the village was abandoned in the later part of the 1st c. CE. When we know this we may start wondering why it existed for c. 200 years.


One of the main topics discussed by HASB in connection with the EIA settlements around Helsingborg is the production of ceramics during the LPR- and ERIA – the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era (3). Potsherds are abundant on these sites and together with several ovens at Gustavslund as well as nearby Backen and Ramlösagården, they indicate a production in excess of household needs. On the two former sites there was probably no, or very limited, iron production, which means that hearth areas, wells, pit shelters/houses and the odd lump of fine clay are more clearly linked to pottery production.

Since most people made their own, selling ceramics (or for that matter iron tools) in the PRIA was probably not big business. The production therefore begs the question: to whom would the potters at Backen, Gustavslund and Ramlösagården have sold their pots with a profit? And: could the people at Gustavslund pack their wagons and set out on a tour selling ceramics to the coastal population between Halmstad and Malmö competing with their neighbours from Ramlösagården?

The answer is: No! In order for producers or traders to distribute household ware it takes a regionally developed infrastructure, suitable wagons, large scale pottery firing and not least market places where people would buy all kinds of commodities. There is no archaeological evidence for such a complex economic system, investments or power-structured society in the PRIA. Alternatively, bearing in mind the settlement expansion east of today’s Helsingborg, we may argue that in the end of the PRIA pottery production and settlement, such as the 4-farm village Gustavslund, were two sides of the same coin.

The chronological settlement pattern of Gustavslund as well as that of the Backen settlement, 1.5 km North of Gustavslund, are typical: sporadic – concentrated – stray, but also characterized by pottery production in excess of household needs (4).

ILLU 07Nevertheless, Backen and perhaps also Filborna and Påarp (5) were closed down in the first part of the EIA expansion. However, 14C-wise, it would seem that Backen could have been moved to become the North farm in Gustavslund when settlements were concentrated to the village. This is obviously difficult to prove, but is it likely that the seemingly instant foundation of the 4-farm village was not the result of a growth of population, but rather the result of farms (and people) moving to a certain location at a certain point in time. The village was founded and four settlement sites that had been used now and again over the years were permanently settled.

ILLU 06This patterns implies a clue to answering the question: to whom did the potters sell their pots? Instead of thinking up an anachronistic economy with markets, transportation and exchange of simple commodities such as pots, it is more rewarding to understand villages such as Gustavslund to be markets in themselves or trade stations where good quality pots are produced and bartered or sold to people who arrive there from the inland to sell their products and as a fringe benefit buy good quality pots difficult to produce in the woodlands. What the trappers would sell is not necessarily sold to the people of Gustavslund, but rather to people who would move valuable the goods out of Scania. Villages such as Gustavslund and Ramlösagården are attractive to trappers, locals and traders, since villages facilitate transhipment and trade as well as the production of pots.

But is there any indications of inland Scania and Småland being exploited by trappers settled in the inland at this early date? Indirectly there is a find pattern suggesting this.

ILLU 08The low value Roman coins minted in the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era are typical in their distribution (1) in the coastland, (2) the inland and (3) possibly along routes of communication between inland and coastland (cf. OnRR 23 January, 2012). The presence of these coins and their distribution can be explained if we look at them as counters, tokens or IOUs in transactions between, a trader, a trapper and a middlemen. Limited and controlled, as such a system needs to be in order to be fair, it is nevertheless, a system that could turn products such as good quality ceramics (as well as iron tools) into a commodity. In such a system there is a point in concentrating potters and craftsmen in a village, because it will make the village more interesting to those involved in the system. The low-value or, in terms of real metal value, almost worthless Roman coins, have the advantage of being difficult to counterfeit. On the other hand: the closer South Scandinavia gets to Roman economy, the easier the access to low value coins. However, if the introduction of this coinage into the system cannot be controlled, then the system will probably collapse after having been sabotaged by coins that have not been introduced as payment for commodities traded within the system. If this happens, that is, if stakeholders get the feeling that there are more coins in the system than they have agreed, then Roman coins will tend to cause distrust within the systems. Thus enhanced economic activity in EIA society will probably lead to the introduction of weighed bullion as payment, as indeed it does in the LRIA.

A similar development can be seen in the transition from E- to LCIA. In the 8th century low value coins (sceattas) were minted in Ribe and used with a nominal value on the market – being the coins of this market, which was under some sort of control (6). Nevertheless, in the economic boom of the 9th and 10th c. silver weight economy carried the day in South Scandinavia. In most of the 10th c. Arabic dirhams and fragments down to a quarter were used in market places in order to speed up transaction time without losing track of their real value. They were thought of and represent a certain, small, amount of pure silver. In the end of the 10th c. coins with a nominal value are reintroduced as a royal coinage sometimes strongly linked to a market as in the Swedish case of King Olof Skötkonung and Sigtuna (7) .

To sum up: in a fairly low structured society with a limited power control and little spatial authority, booming economies make it difficult to handle economically sound notions such as nominal values. The reason for this is simple: during a boom transactions cannot be confined to organized markets and production places large enough to create and sustain their own coinage. Instead prices can be negotiated everywhere – not in relation to the commodities of a controlled market, but in relation to the value of a precious metal such as silver.

Owing to initial contacts with the Roman world economy, the economic raison d’être of a potters’ villages as an embryonic production and market place or trade station may well have become a fact. If so access to good clays, skills and local control of power were behind this possibility to satisfy a demand. When these contacts boomed local economic raison d’être disappeared. This change could be expressed in many very different way. That is why we may describe it as the end of the village as well as the ability of trappers, potters and middlemen to organize themselves in inland settlement areas during the prosperous RIA.



(1) Aspeborg, Håkan. 2012. Österleden vatten, etapp 2 Skåne, Helsingborgs kommun, Helsingborgs stad, Husensjö 9:25, RAÄ 261. Arkeologisk förundersökning 2011. Uv rapport 2012:31.

(2) The BCal team comprises Caitlin Buck, Geoff Boden, Andrés Christen, Gary James and Fred Sonnenwald. The URL for the service ( The paper that launched it was Buck C.E., Christen J.A. and James G.N. 1999. BCal: an on-line Bayesian radiocarbon calibration tool. Internet Archaeology, 7. (

(3) There is a thorough formal analysis of the ceramic from Gustavslund by Thorbjörn Brorsson that analysis adds significantly to the value of the material.
(Brorsson, T. 2014. Den förromerska och romerska keramikens kronologi och funktion – exempel från Gustavslund I Helsingborg. Appendix 8 in HASB:190-222).

In view what will probably be included of her PhD. dissertation, Katarina Botwid has written an innovative preliminary assessment of the ceramic craftsmanship in EIA Gustavslund, with but a short discussion of the empirical basis for the qualitative categorizations of the craft.
(Botwid, K. 2014. Hantverkstolkning av keramik – en undersökning av forntida keramikers hantverksskicklighet, Appendix 9 in HASB:223-246).

(4) Strömberg, Bo. 2011. Österleden etapp 3, Helsingborg. En hantverksgård från äldre järnålder vid Backen, Helsingborg. Fördjupad förundersökning. Skåne, Helsingborgs stad, Husensjö, fornlämning 265. Uv rapport 2011:138.

(5) Larsson, Rolf and Söderberg, Bengt. 2004. Filborna by – Gård och by i ett långt tidsperspektiv. UV SYD Arkeologiska för- och slutundersökningar Rapport 2004:26.

Aspeborg, Håkan. 2012. In: H. Aspeborg med bidrag av Nathalie Becker (red). Arkeologisk undersökning. En storgård i Påarp. Skåne, Välluv socken, Påarp 1:12, RAÄ 22 och 43. UV Syd, dokumentation av fältarbetsfasen 2002:1. .

(6) Feveile, Claus. 2008. Series X and coin circulation in Ribe. In: Tony Abramson (ed.) Two Decades of Discovery. Studies in Early Medieval coinage. Vol. 1. Woodbridge. The Boydell Press. Pp 53-66.

(7) Herschend, Frands. 1992. What Olof had in mind. Fornvännen vol. 87. Stockholm. Pp. 19-31.