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.

This week On the Reading Rest I have an article from Antiquity. It concerns strontium 87Sr/86Sr values in human skeletons from the Carolingian Iron Age. Measuring 87Sr/86Sr values in tooth enamel will disclose the strontium bioavailability in the environment where the human being lived when the tooth enamel was formed, i.e. where the person grew up. If these values are compared to the baseline values in a certain environment we may speak of a possible match or mismatch between the values of a tested person and the baseline values – most often a spectrum – characterizing the area where this person’s skeleton was found. A match indicates that the test person grew up in the area in question and died there, while a mismatch suggests that the person at some stage in life moved into the area perhaps only to die there.

Since some areas are more uniquely defined than others and since areas may vary in size, the analysis and interpretation may be more or less rewarding. However, if we want to check prehistoric migration 87Sr/86Sr values may be surprisingly revealing not least owing to our present-day reluctance to believe in prehistoric migration without manifest proof, which in practice rather than formally there might be in 87Sr/86Sr values.


fig 00Price et al. 2011. Douglas T. Price, Karin Margarita Frei, Andres Siegfried Dobat, Niels Lynnerup and Pia Bennike. Who was in Harold Bluetooth’s army? Strontium isotope investigation of the cemetery at the Viking Age fortress at Trelleborg, Zeeland. Antiquity; Jun 2011; 85. Pp. 476-89. Acronym: WiHaBa.

In Viking Age research, Harold Bluetooth is usually considered a very Danish political player and an emblem of state formation. His nationalistic centrepiece as we know it, is nevertheless an odd one on several legs: his equation: Christianity = The Church, his building projects, his quest for formal geometrical architecture, his ahistorical modernity in which he cunningly incorporates the past, as well as his use of text and rune stone ornament as propaganda. This make him stand out as outlandish – introducing all kinds of European novelties and uniformities that today’s neo-nationalists/fascists in Denmark would have frown at and compared to intolerable EU directives, had they been able to draw historical parallels. Many academics on the other hand, think that Harold is interesting because to their mind his measures look like steps towards the foundation of the Christian Medieval Kingdom, the future ‘Nation State’ and eventually even ‘The Viking’ – once signs of civilisation, nowadays tarnished phenomena reduced to the mantras of neo-nationalists – but nevertheless part of Danish history.

Despite his endeavour, one may question Harold’s success as the king who reigned for decades changing country and society. Although he may have been king for several years (‘fifty’ his grandson Sweyn Estridsson thought when (c. 970) he wanted to please Adam of Bremen) it is unlikely that Harold gained supreme power until a couple of years after the death of his father, that is, c. 965 CE. By c. 985 his rule was over after the war with Otto II (974) and a power struggle, started c. 980 by his son Sweyn Forkbeard. Harold-Bluetooth’s rule, as demonstrated by his building activities, might thus have been short and unsuccessful inasmuch as it aimed at transforming and reorganizing society.

Analyses and interpretation in WiHaBa fit the general academic understanding of Harold. Therefore, the answer to the question of the title – Who was in Harold Bluetooth’s army? – is: foreigners! or, in the eloquent last sentence of the abstract: Trelleborg, home of Harold Bluetooth’s army, was a fortress of foreigners with vivid implications for the nature of his political mission (WiHaBa:476).

Foreign and non-foreign among the buried

How foreign were they when they died? How vivid their implications? When we look at WiHaBa:Fig. 2, and that happens well before we know anything about the actual 87Sr/86Sr values, it seems that the proportion between non-local and possible local values is more or less 50-50 outside the mass graves. Although there are baseline foreigners in the graves there seems to be equally many locals interred on the cemetery.

baseline values in Denmark

Fig 4, WiHaBa:483, presents the South Scandinavian baseline values and the authors draw the conclusion that values outside the range 0.709-0.7108 indicate a non-South Scandinavian or non-Northwest German human being. This conclusion, nevertheless, doesn’t match the map presented in Fig 4. In fact, there are several values between 0.7073 and 0.709 in Denmark not least in Jutland something one should not forget when discussing matters related to Harold Bluetooth. To the East, in Scania, there are few reference values, but in northern Scania there is a baseline value of 0.7160. Colours will help us see the pattern of the 87Sr/86Sr values.

fig 05In the end the most striking pattern is that of the difference between the mass graves and the single or double common graves. Interpreting this pattern is difficult owing to the lack of baseline data from Halland and Scania (where 87Sr/86Sr values above 0.711 are possible). If that is indeed the case some of the ‘foreigners’ in Trelleborg would be ‘less foreign’ and based perhaps in a Scanian trelleborg before they died. Some, moreover, could have been children on Bornholm, or on  Öland and Gotland. Be this as it may, those interred in mass graves were a more varied group of people and more baseline-foreign than those buried in traditional graves. This indicates that those who seem to have been living more permanently in the garrison had a more homogenous regional background – albeit with a marked non-Zealand foreign component – than the mass grave population. Indirectly, since there are far too few values below 0.708 to reflect a ‘Danish’ population, there is an emphasis on a regional component and we can conclude that those who lived and died at Trelleborg were not predominantly from Jutland let alone Jelling men.

If Harold’s army had consisted of foreigners it would have been noteworthy, not least because it is difficult in a country with a weak monetary system, to build an army of mercenaries, who must be paid inasmuch as looting is not a permanent option. On the other hand it is a great advantage to have a number of loyal mercenaries, perhaps with a background in Scania, if controlling Zeeland is an option in a civil war. It is much more likely therefore, that Trelleborg was manned by a mixture of Zealanders and non-Zealand non-Jutland foreigners. WiHaBa suggests that it is significant that the mass graves were probably reserved for groups who didn’t live permanently in the fortress. Had they been part of the ordinary crew they ought to have been buried individually, even if their death was traumatic.

WiHaBa is an article that jumps to conclusions – hopefully for no apparent reason, such as campaigning for Sweyn Forkbeard’s true Danish values or any other involuntary agenda. The article simplifies and inflates ‘the foreign’, the legacy of Harold Bluetooth and the history of the Carolingian Iron Age forcing its readers to scrutinize its arguments as well as its number foundation. There is nothing wrong with applied natural sciences, in this case recording the measurements of a multicollector VG Sector 54 IT mass spectrometer (Institute of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen). It is reassuring that this instrument works so well that five ng loads of the NBS 987 Sr standard gave 87Sr/86Sr = 0.710236-0.000010 (n = 10, 2s). Obviously one needs craftsmanship and critical sense to handle the material and its preparation. But that must not obscure the fact that until the scientist starts interpreting the stable isotope values, analysis is essentially a systematic craft. In this case the interpretations demonstrates a considerable gap between material and conclusion in tandem with a historical interpretation that borders on the naïve.

This week On the Reading Rest have the new Aggersborg publication

Illu00Roesdahl, Else et al. 2014. Else Roesdahl, Søren Michael Sindbæk, Anne Pedersen and David M. Wilson (eds). Aggersborg: The Viking-Age Settlement & Fortress. Jutland Archaeological Society Publications vol 82. Århus. Acronym A-SaF.

All Aggerborg illustrations in this entry are based on A-SaF.

I read the book not primarily because of the famous late 10th c. fortress, rather I want to learn more about the village demolished in the 970s in order to give room for one of Harold Bluetooth’s uniform ring forts. The fortress turned out to be short-lived and the village was reestablished presumably already in the 11th century. It is conceivable, therefore, that historical or post-fortress Aggerborg had its roots in the LIA settlement. The editors and the highly qualified research group behind the book have done a splendid job summarizing the essential facts concerning a material that lay dormant for half a century in the archives of the National Museum in Copenhagen. During recent years, metal detector surveys, limited new excavations and successful geophysical measurements have enhance the original excavation results. In a series of chapters, members of the research group contextualize the investigations in relation especially the fortress, to the Limfjord and to the other Harold Bluetooth fortresses.


Illu02If we paste an overview of the excavations at Aggersborg on the first cadastral map of the modern village, it appears that the ‘Aggersborg’, although we do not know its original name, was founded in the LIA and thrived at least from the 8th century CE and onwards. Its east-west layout suggests a social structure reminiscent the EIA – a number of smaller dependent farms in one end and a large dominant one in the other.

Illu03In this 8-10th century version, the large farm in the west-end stands out as a manor, unrestricted by boundaries and characterized by large buildings (House A, D and GS) as well as pit houses. By contrast, the smaller farms in the east-end seem regulated and crammed on their plots. The parallels to continental situations with farms and pit houses were exemplified OtRR 14 April, 2014 referring to the Gladbach excavations.

Historical Aggersborg is also characterized by this manor-and-farm structure.

Illu04Although the Aggersborg fortress looks like a rigid layout of barracks, the few artefacts contemporary with the fortress show that of the buildings were also the abode of rural households. Only a limited part of the settlement area has been excavated, but the artefact distribution nevertheless reveals the typical east-west pattern, albeit within the confines of the fortress – its courtyards squared off by Haroldian halls in quarters defined by axial streets and the circular rampart. In the west the artefacts are dispersed inside the West Gate and in the east condensed inside the East Gate. Despite the village being haussmannized by Harold’s planners and builders, the spatial division of its settlement seems intact if we focus on the permanent fortress households. Given the short fortress period, it stands to reason that owing to the necessity to look after a fortress presumably most often empty, rural production and maintenance were outsourced to local entrepreneurs, their agro-consultants and household technicians. When, and there are few clues as to exactly when, the village was reestablished this structure was retained in the historical village. The Royal manor was first mentioned in relation to events in 1086, long after the fortress period, and there was hardly a manor without a village. Despite the autocratic planning of the fortress there was in other word a kind of continuity in the social structure of the community. If the fortress had become a long-term royal success with a permanent garrison in the barracks, the traditional social structure would not have been visible as an artefact pattern mirroring densely and sparsely settled areas.

It may well have been traumatic when manor and village were pulled and perhaps burnt down in the 970s CE, but it is hard to imagine that the estate, the community’s economic base: fields, meadows and grassland, would not have been maintained and perhaps expanded when the fortress was built. Moreover, the social continuity suggests that the King controlled Aggersborg before the construction of the fortress in such a way that to his order he could settle the locals in his model architecture. This form of royal power need not exclude the unpopular King’s unfriendly takeover ousting his steward by force. Be this as it may, the basic social structure of the local society was maintained from the LIA and until today because it continued to be economically reasonable.

Illu05Belonging to the 8th – 11th century, the pit houses are an added settlement component, and they seem to cluster around the settlement’s main houses except the pre-fortress hall (Building D). There are two kinds of pit houses: the excavated ones and the ones detected by the geophysical survey. Both categories are described and discussed by Søren Sindbæk. The geophysical surveys were undertaken in order to compensate for the limited excavation areas and aimed at getting an overview of the whole settlement. The measurements were interpreted in a plan and pit houses were relatively easy to see not least while they are large enough not to fall between measuring points. The plan maps probable and possible pit houses and I have chosen to add ‘the probable’ to the excavated ones. ‘The possible’ ones are indeed possible, but I see them more as indications as to where future excavations should perhaps take place. Their distribution differs from that of the probable houses inasmuch as the easternmost part of southernmost cluster, which is made up of several ‘probable’ and two excavated houses, may well have been the western end of a row stretching east-west.

In the west-end of the settlement the pit houses have a north-south distribution probably linked to fewer and larger east-west orientated houses west of the manor building. The western pit houses dates to the whole of the Carolingian Iron Age. Some are earlier than, some contemporary with, and some later than the fortress.

Illu06The eastern part of the settlement is organized in rows of three-aisled houses seemingly surrounded by pit houses. If we check the way the pit houses overlap, the direction in which they move is southwards except in one or perhaps two cases. This indicated that the position of a pit houses is determined by a building situated north of the primary house. If we take this trait as significant of the settlement at large, then there may be a development from the north to the south in three rows. The northern one with few pit houses and two southern ones with many.

Illu07The constellation main house/pit house represents a production site linked to and protected by farms, situated on the shores of the Limfjord at a suitable landing site. Production was depended on a manor-and-farm based rural economy to provide for its workers. Few crafts except textile production can be traced in the floor layers of the pit houses. Farm hands, and fishermen perhaps engaged in herring fishery, may nevertheless have been an important workforce settled in the pit houses – permanently and seasonally. The excavations plans therefore seems to show us a socially stratified society with manor, farms and cabins. In this structure the dominant landowner, the dependent farmers and the free or unfree workforce, subsisted and produced goods that could be exported to urban communities.


Aggersborg was never a town, but opposite the village, the town of Løgstør became a fact in the early 16th century probably after the King had given up his estate at Aggersborg (1). It may be argued that the southern shore of the Limfjord was the more optimal if we wished to found a town, but in that case one may wonder why such a town didn’t exist until the 16th century. Given the way the private Aggersborg manor (Aggersborggård) tried to prevent the town from profiting from the local fishing waters, which were important to the town’s economy, it is conceivable that the interests of a manor, its farms and pit house production settlement tended to prevent the foundation of towns or at least the success of actual towns. All Haroldian fortresses on the other hand are town-situated and most of them in the vicinity of a rather insignificant modern towns except for Odense and the not impossible fortress in Helsingborg (2). This indicates that Harold in addition to his political ambitions viewed his strategic measures in the light of the communicative and demographic parameters of a densely settled place – in this case a garrison with access to water. In order to create his network of fortresses Harold seems nevertheless to need access to land, which in some cases meant that the Place he chose had historical roots. This is typical not least of the fortresses in Scania, but also of Trelleborg on Zealand and Aggersborg in Jutland. We knows little about the environment of Fyrkat and Nonnebakken, but the new site, Borgring, next to Køge, is situated only 500m from the village Lille Salby and the manor Lellingegård. This place-name situation indicates that Borgring was founded on the land of an existing manor (a sal) (3). Since a number of towns were also founded or recreated in the days of Harold Bluetooth we can defend the hypothesis that Harold, engaged in his nation-building, wanted to establish an urbanized as well as a fortified nation held together in a coastal network of urban and military nodes. Towns are characterized by their harbour situation, garrisons most often situated a little more inland no more than a few kilometres form a temporary landing site. Ribe is the exception among the towns since it is situated by a river slightly inland, i.e. like a fortress. Aggersborg is the fortress exception situated directly by the water, albeit without a harbour

In southern Denmark, in Hedeby, at Ravningenge, in Jelling and indirectly, be means of the rune stone DR 55 at Sønder Vissing, Harold didn’t forget inland manifestations.


(1) Painting by R.H. Kruse, Rasmus Henrik Kruse,  7.8.1796-30.5.1877, maler, antikvar. Født i Navtrup, Salling, begravet på Fur

(2) A number of facts about the early history of Løgstør, in Danish, can be found at Løgstørs ældre historie

(3) see



This week On the Reading Rest I have three reports from the excavations at Skälby, the last of the three Västerås settlements to merit a Bayesian chronological analysis. All three reports have an English summary. The two first reports concerns the Skälby village, the last one deals with excavations in the outskirts west of the village. I read these reports mostly to understand how the 14C -dates mirror the chronology of the settlement.

OmslagenAspeborg, Håkan. 1999. Västra Skälby – en by från äldre järnålder. Riksantikvarieämbetet UV-Uppsala, Rapport 1997:56. Stockholm 1999. Acronym Asp.

Onsten-Molander, Anna. 2008. A. Onsten-Molander (red) Skälby. Bilden av byn växer fram. Fortsatta undersökningar av boplatslämningar från äldre järnålder. Med bidrag av Ylva Bäckström, Tony Engström, Susanna Eklund, Helena Hulth & Ann Lindkvist. SAU Rapport 14. Uppsala 2008. Acronym OnMo.

Korpås, Ola & Wikborg, Jonas. 2102. Skälby. Bebyggelselämningar från järnåldern. Med bidrag av Elisabet Pettersson (Skälby. Settlement remains from the Iron Age (with contributions from Elisabet Petterson). SAU rapport 2012:13. Acronym KoWi.


There are c. 120 14C-dates related to the greater Skälby settlement area collected between 1992 and 2009. They describe a settlement period with varying intensity. The most common 14C-dates belong to the PRIA. In the LPR- and ERIA the settlement consisted of a village just south of a small impediment where the remains of an IA cemetery are still visible. West of this EIA village there are some small settlement areas on the fringe of a small forest growing on moraine partly covering a very small mountain. It has been suggested that there was a small prehistoric ring fort on the mountain (KoWi:10). Village and outskirts shared an agricultural area between them with small heavily fertilized fields and water meadows (Asp:71f.). The arable land is often wet and dominated by a clayey raised seabed. To the north these fields meet slightly higher woodlands on moraine. The arable land stretches out towards the south and the small stream between Skälby and West Hacksta.

Overview 00Historical and modern Skälby is situated just east of the Early Iron Age village. Today, the area around the modern village is surrounded by the suburb Skälby, but it stands to reason that the LIA settlement lies under the modern village or north of this village next to the remains of the cemetery. Since the latter alternative creates a connection between excavated settlement remains and the cemetery, this might well be where the LRIA village was situated.

The distribution of the 14C-dates has a strong emphasis on dates belonging to the period bp 2150–1950, i.e. a c. 200 year phase commencing in the early 2nd c. BCE and coming to an end in the 1st c. CE. All periods from the Late Bronze Age (LBA) to the Late Carolingian Iron Age (LCIA) are represented in the area, but this cannot hide the fact that from the 4th century and onwards dates become scanty. The emphasis in the village on the LPRIA is enhanced if we take the dates from the peripheral settlement area into consideration. No less than forty tests, a third of the total number, are dated bp2100–2000 (2nd–1st c. BCE).

Slightly later, between bp 1960 and 1880 there is a possible gap in the 14C-distribution and it is worth testing whether this gap in the village settlement actually existed. The models used to test this will be returned by the BCal – an on-line Bayesian radiocarbon calibration tool (1). 14C dates SkälbyThe solitary 14C-date (bp 1920) in the middle of the gap actually doesn’t represent the settlement inasmuch as it belongs to a peripheral well. It testifies to the fact that the area, whether settled or not, was continuously used, albeit with varying intensity.

The Skälby 14C-dates from the LPR- and RIA are not easy to model. They are many and since most of them were measured in early 1990s several average values are afflicted with standard deviations twice or thrice as large as the present standard. This makes modelling a possible gap or hiatus difficult. If we look at the end of the long, mainly LPRIA, settlement period and the beginning of the short RIA settlement (cf. the green circle in the above illustration), then the gap is hard to prove because the limits of a short period are more difficult to define than the borders of a long one. If we check the gap only in relation to the nearest 9 tests on each side of it, the gap is not like to have existed. Moreover, if we try to compare the 45 often clustering tests of the whole LPRIA period to the 12 tests representing the short RIA period, BCal will fail to calibrate the sample. However, if we delete every second test from the sample of the long period, then modelling becomes possible because the length and character of the period is retained while in the process the number and complexity of the tests have become manageable. When BCal is asked to calculate the gap between the event that signifies the end of the long period and the event that signifies the beginning of the short period, then the tool returns the interval 2 to 181 years if the probability is set at 95% and 52 to 138 if it is set at 68%. The fifty-fifty length is 65 to 120 years. An interval of c. 65 years is thus not unlikely although the gap may have been longer as well as shorter.

By checking the possibility that the long Phase A had come to an end and the short Phase B commenced, in relation to given calendar years, we may illustrate when the gap was likely to have been a fact. The RIA GapIt would seem that at least in the later years of the 1st century CE there was a gap in the Skälby settlement. A comparison between the posteriority distributions of the end of the long settlement period, Phase A, and the beginning of the short, Phase B, give the same impression. This, obviously, is a result that ought to be reviewed in relation to the spatial contexts of the dates.

Posteriority analys RIAfirst two phaseslast two phasesIf we look at this distribution of the 14C-dates sorted in 50-year long 14C-year periods,  the development of the village stands out. The same is true of peripheral wells and a tendency for the settlement to form phases which probably has to do with digging or repairing wells close to the farm houses and the rebuilding of farm the houses themselves. Generally speaking Skälby is not a very dynamic settlement since renews itself in phases rather than continuously; but it accords with a situation in which a settlement is abandoned in the late 1st century CE and eventually reestablished as a number of well-separated homesteads. A settlement that can be switched off and on—abandoned and reestablished – doesn’t stand out as autonomous. In the second century CE, not surprisingly, the distribution of the farmsteads is very different from that of the early LPRIA settlement, which had central and peripheral parts.End of settlementThe short RIA phase is a transition to a long period (10 14C-dates bp 1790-1600) of limited usage of the settlement site. An intuitive analysis of the dates makes it likely that among four farmsteads, crofts or cottages, only one exists in the settlement area c. 1650bp when the settlement was finally abandoned. For more than a century, this farm or croft had been situated in the northern end of the area next to cemetery. With a series of main houses c. 15 m long, this farm seems to have been established c. 1775bp and abandoned c. 1650bp, that is, c. 400 CE. During the settlement period bp 1790-1650 there seems never to have been more than two households in the area. Owing to the calibration curve the oldest dates in the period may well be more or less contemporary with the latest dates in Phase B in the northwestern corner of the excavation. This indicates that in the end phase (bp 1790-1600) there was one, two and eventually one continuously settled abodes in the northernmost part of the settlement area — on slightly higher grounds next to the cemetery. It is possible therefore that the end of the Skälby settlement is actually the end of the outskirts of a village situated north of the excavated area. If so, the village might well have looked like the last phase in West Hacksta, Village E (cf. OtRR 3 Nov 2014).


An Outline of the settlement history in the Gilltuna-Hacksta-Skälby triangle

In order to summarize the development in the settlement area I will interpret the chronological events as typical general events. This need not be the case, but it is a reasonable way of creating a model that may be falsified by new excavations.

In a long-term structural perspective, the settlement area develops from the PRIA and onwards with the isostatic uplift, expanding in terms of settlement units until the RIA, seemingly starting to  disappear in the 4th century CE. The development in Gilltuna gives us a glimpse of the LIA organization of a settlement. Most importantly, the densely settled ‘tun’ illustrates the concentration of buildings on a LIA plot. On the tun in Gilltuna the remains of 17 houses covering c. 500 years, could be defined on 5,000 sqm. At Skälby, 39 houses were found on 70,000 sqm during an equally long period. This means that there was one house per 1800 sqm at Skälby. At Gilltuna during a similar time span there was one per 300 sqm. The relative density of houses on the tun was thus six times higher at Gilltuna. To this one must add that it is much more difficult at Gilltuna than at Skälby to link all large postholes to houses. Thus there are probably more unknown buildings at Gilltuna that at Skälby. Structurally, the organization of the settlement in the middle of the first millennium is thus a matter of confining farms to stable regulated narrow plots. The sites chosen to become dense regulated plots, and thus probably a ‘tun’, were used already in the EIA when it seems that most of the suitable settlements sites had already been recognized.

Moving a settlement, was part of the cultural identity of the EIA, the restricted and permanent plot on the other hand was novel and probably introduced in some places already in the LRIA, for instance in Village D162 in Säby, Uppland (cf. OtRR 13 March 2013).

Between the end of the 10th century and the 15th, when historical Gilltuna disappears, there is only one date of interest, an oven dated bp 486±30, i.e. cal CE 1407-50 (with ±2σ). This indicates that the remains of Early Medieval Gilltuna with most of its buildings standing on the ground was ploughed away from the 1400s and onwards. The dates from the excavations of the peripheral sites west of Skälby suggests that in the CIA peripheral activities were to some extent revived. sammanfattande analysIf we summarize the analysis as a matter of structure and chronology, as in the above illustration, we can describe a generalized development with rotating farms in the PRIA. This period of expansion leads to the first small villages in the end of the PRIA. In the ERIA villages are sometimes reorganized and a clear divide between central and peripheral farms, as well as crofts, becomes a reality. In the LRIA some villages become a little more regulated and in the end of the RIA and in the 4-5th century many villages disappear, but not all. Many peripheral settlements, moreover, continue to be inhabited before they finally disappear c. 500 CE. It seems reasonable to suggest that Gilltuna continues to be Gilltuna although it may have changed its name after the settlement hiatus. IA Skälby lives on in historical Skälby and West Hacksta may eventually have become Igelsta.

Settlement concentration and reorganization starts already in the RIA and it is an ongoing process which deprive us of small settlement units. Eventually the settlement contracts to a few densely settled village sites. Since we can see that this village development starts already in the ERIA, we might have expected it to be a gradual process, but the abandonment of a large number of farm units in the late 4th early 5th century might well represent an agricultural crisis speeding up the development. The Cold Decade didn’t stop the development although one might have thought that a period, starting with a drop in the population, would lead to the foundation of new farms when the population began to grow again. If so, these new villages were successful and invisible to constract archaeology, with a few cases such Gilltuna to prove the rule. The Klondyke situation characterizing the PRIA was not repeated in the LIA and not until the CIA do we see signs of expansion.

SlutfigIf we summarize the analysis as a matter of economy and chronology, then we must first acknowledge that in the long run farms become fewer, larger and more stable. Some farms, moreover, become larger than others. During the PRIA, husbandry is important, and fields are small and over-fertilized. When the households become larger it stands to reason that the fields grow too and the divide between fields and grassland more marked. Owing to larger fields and denser settlements, the balance between fields, grass- and woodland becomes stable and more prolific. The nucleated villages will benefit from larger fields and roads from the villages through infields to meadows and woods.

The social implication of the development stands out as social segregation and the transition from a flat to a more pointed social pyramid. The introduction of larger farms, dominating a village, and the ability to prevent peripheral settlements and settlers estabishing themselves outside the villages is a major social achievement that probably reflects the power of those who think the land belongs to them. They, who in the LIA live in pit houses outside the Gill-tun, either permanently or seasonally, are probably less socially important than those who live in halls. The former represent a growing population with no common right to settle and farm a suitable unoccupied land.

Owing to possible subsistence problems, the closing down of autonomous households in the 4th and 5th century, and the possibly famine in The Cold Decade, there are also demographic implications in the changing landscape. Migration from the area and trying one’s hand at external acquisition, as well as power struggle may have been seen as ways of coping with crisis, at the same time limiting the growth of the population. The Cold Decade, although a purely natural phenomenon may thus have hit a population that was badly prepared to resist it when crops failed and grasslands and meadows became low-productive.


(1) 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. (

This week On the Reading Rest I have a letter by Sidonius Apollinaris, but I don’t read it without consulting relevant chapters in:

coverWaarden, Johannes A. & Kelly, Gavin. 2013. New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris. [Late Antique History and Religion 7] Peeters. Leuven – Paris – Walpola, Ma. Acronym: NatSa

Reading a letter by Sidonius Apollinaris is not just a matter of getting the words and their immediate meaning right. His nine books of letters must also be seen as a work in themselves, a series of instalments, nine books of letters, related to Sidonius, his life, conscious and unconscious decisions, plans and opinions in his ‘long decade’, encompassing the 470s. His letters, however, are not terribly annalistic. Consequently, arrangement, editing, his choice of addressees, composition, facts, mood and opinion, to name but a few factors, must be actively understood in order to grasp the contexts of the letters and a wealth of relations. The possible variables are neither reviewable nor well-defined and reading Sidonius in depth is in other words reassuringly impossible but nevertheless worthwhile.

Book 8 letter 6, probably written from Clermont-Ferrand to his friend Namatius the Visigoth King Euric’s admiral stationed in Saintonges, is a case in point. (Go to page 145)

Sidonius Apollinaris personifies Late Antiquity. He writes classical Latin (Rodie Risselada, NatSa:273f & 300), but he also promotes himself in a non-classical but definitely Late-Antique style full of pretentious mannerism that doesn’t chime in well with the ever-present alleged modesty and professed inferiority of the author. This kind of lip service is so common and so linked to topos that is no more than the equivalent of more or less harmless politeness. It need not bother us reading the letter as long as we remember that life in Late Antiquity was horrible to most. Mannerism, moreover, hasn’t completely left us.

SidoniusWhen it comes to the overall structure of the nine books of letters, Roy Gibson (NatSa:195ff.) has argue that Sidonius composed his nine books according to an overarching structure reminiscent of the way Pliny the younger organized his (1). This means that anxiety would be a theme we must not be surprised to meet in a letter in book 7 or 8. Contrary to Pliny, Sidonius, who was well aware of the bleak aspects of life, makes a point of not losing hope. Fond of staging the drama of his own life in a historical setting (cf. Sigrid Mratschek, NatSa:254), he is nevertheless confident that ultimately the very kind of intellectualism that he himself represents will lead the way out of our present problems. Composing a series of ‘Books of Letters’ doesn’t prevent Sidonius from writing personal letters reflecting the world he lives in, and in this setting the last two books, 8 & 9, are appendices to the first seven inasmuch as he ends book 7 and 8 telling his addressee that enough is enough. Needless to say on request he procures book 8 & 9 (and so did Pliny). Sidonius, true to his composition is acutely aware of all possible dangers, but obeys ‘the command and set[s] his ‘sails to the old winds’. He asks himself why he, who has ‘navigated oceans’, ‘shouldn’t cross this quiet water’ (Book 8, letter 1). The book is the answer, anxiety present, and Sidonius is not discouraged.

With Ralph Mathisen we can expect that Book 8 was circulated in some form or other c. 480 CE, that is a couple of years after Books 1-7 (NatSa:Tab. 3 p 231).

The structure of Letter 6 is not straightforward. But reading the very last paragraph we understand that the letter is an answer to a request by Namatius asking Sidonius to send him some books that his friend would like to read because he is in camp organising his campaign and could do with a little leisure. Sending these books would have been a logical way to end the letter, had it not been for the paragraphs 13 to 17. In paragraph 13, after the first sentence, there is a break because a courier arrives. Talking to him Sidonius is told that Namatius has already weighed anchor pursuing the Saxons. If the last paragraph had not already been written we would expect the last paragraph to have rounded up the letter. Something like this: I send the books with the courier and they will await your happy return – please write to me as soon as you can! In fact what we have is a post scriptum pasted into the original last paragraph once meant to state the following:

[13] But, joking apart, do let me know how things go with you and your household. THE POST SCRIPTUM: [18 ]In accordance with your request, I send you the Libri Logistorici of Varro and the Chronology of Eusebius. If these models reach you safely, and you find a little leisure from the watches and the duties of the camp, you will be able, your arms once furbished, to apply another kind of polish to an eloquence which must be getting rusty. Farewell.

Prior to this last paragraph there are two sections. To begin with a rather long one (paragraphs 1 to 9) dedicated to one of Sidonii role models Flavius Nicetius. This man is a towering intellectual and orator successfully involved in governing. Since Flavius Nicetius likes Sidonius too, we are not surprised. Moreover, paragraph 1 begins with a reference to Caesar and that is relevant in view of the books by Varro – himself an intellectual at the centre of power and an antagonist accepted by Caesar.

Understandably, inasmuch as self-promotion must be balanced, the second part (paragraphs 10 to 12) begins: ‘But no more of me and my friend’ and Sidonius then goes on to jokingly to tease Namatius while flattering him. They are palls, God bless them, and now when the conversation has been made public we cannot help eavesdropping because Sidonius has chosen to publish himself in a way that reminds us of someone talking loudly into his phone on the train.

When the letter was finished the courier from Saintonges entered – what a coincidence! He is not Namatius’ courier, but having talked to the man Sidonius has to write the post scriptum (paragraphs 13 to 17). Needless to say he may have invented the anonymous courier. Later when Sidonius edits the letter he puts the post scriptum where it has the most dramatic effect. The post scriptum serves Sidonius to show his concern for a Saxon-hunting friend, and although he need not tell Namatius of the dangers, he does so anyway because danger, concern and anxiety it is one of his themes in Book 8. This mean that we know why the Saxons entered the letter – they are an indisputable example of the ruthless chillingly capable and dedicated barbarians – the IS/Isis of the 470s. Sidonius writes about the Saxons exactly to describe what Namatius and the well-informed already agree upon when it comes to Saxons. Everything is factual – horrible and true.

[13] … [The inserted Post Scriptum:] Just as I was on the point of ending a letter which had rambled on long enough, lo and behold! a courier from Saintonges. I whiled away some time talking with him about you; and he was very positive that you had weighed anchor, and in fulfilment of those half military, half naval duties of yours were coasting the western shores on the look-out for small curved pirate ships of the Saxons in whose every oarsman you think to detect an arch-pirate. Captains and crews alike, to a man they teach or learn the art of brigandage; therefore let me urgently caution you to be ever on the alert.

[14] For the Saxon is the most ferocious of all foes. He comes on you without warning; when you expect his attack he makes away. Resistance only moves him to contempt; a rash opponent is soon down. If he pursues he overtakes; if he flies himself, he is never caught. Shipwrecks to him are no terror, but only so much training. His is no mere acquaintance with the perils of the sea; he knows them as he knows himself. A storm puts his enemies off their guard, preventing his preparations from being seen; the chance of taking the foe by surprise makes him gladly face every hazard of rough waters and broken rocks.

[15] Moreover, when the Saxons are setting sail from the continent, and are about to drag their firm-holding anchors from an enemy’s shore, it is their usage, thus homeward bound, to abandon every tenth captive to the slow agony of a watery end, casting lots with perfect equity among the doomed crowd in execution of this iniquitous sentence of death. This custom is all the more deplorable in that it is prompted by honest superstition. These men are bound by vows which have to be paid in victims, they conceive it a religious act to perpetrate this horrible slaughter, and to take anguish from the prisoner in place of ransom; this polluting sacrilege is in their eyes an absolving sacrifice.

[16] I am in full of anxiety and apprehension about these dangers etc. etc. (Dalton 1915: Sidonius to Namatius: Book viii, letter vi, section 13-17).

The quotation describes fleets of small sailing ships full of oarsmen. The ships are many, quite fast and easy to manoeuvre, the sailors are capable.

Concerning the translation one may wonder about the word pandos translated as ‘curved’ in the expression Saxorum pandos myoparones—‘the Saxons’ small curved pirate ships’. The pirate ships, the myoparones, are light ships and thus easy to manoeuvre and dangerous to large men of war. Indirectly, Cicero Against Verres describes the character of these light vessels:

Is it because while you (Verres) were praetor, a most beautiful fleet, the bulwark of Sicily, the defence of the province, was burnt by the hands of pirates arriving in a few light galleys? Cic. Verr. 2, 3, 80, § 186

The ‘light galleys’ are the myoparones and their maritime strategy is based on their number (always several) the impossibility easily to foresee their movements and their speed, which makes them difficult to target. They are the equivalent of light cavalry attacking a formation of foot soldiers. Describing these light vessels as ‘curved’ is pointless. Most ships are curved and the shape of a myoparō not very important. It would be more reasonable, therefore, if pandos referred to the primary meaning of the verb pandere, that is, to spread out, extend; to unfold, or expand and described the ‘spread-out’ formation of the small ships when they attack heavy vessels. Moreover, if we believe that pandos refers to the shape of the individual vessel we tacitly imply that Sidonius is engaged in an ethnographic description of The Saxon Boat. Evidently he is not! boat, sail and anchor are instruments in the hands of the Saxons. He is concerned about these pirates’ naval skills, their landfall, their terrorising innocent people and murdering them in the most gruesome way – honestly believing that they do the right thing.

In Euric’s days coasting the Atlantic shores on his behalf as Namatius does, would be sailing all the way up to the mouth of the Somme hunting pirates in the sea and on land as the expression indicates when Sidonius describes the admirals assignment: atque inter officia nunc nautae, modo militis—‘and among assignments now naval, partly military’. Consequently, Sidonius describes the Saxon fleet as an effective naval force anchored in waters outside a coastal settlement making land fall although it is their seamanship that catches the eye. Since they are ‘setting sails from the continent’ to their homeland, these Saxons may have come from England as well as from the isles in the Wadden Sea or further north. Be this as it may, Sidonius relates second- or third-hand knowledge, which sounds very much like a narrative originally told by people who had encountered Saxons along the French coast and have had reason to be impressed by their tactics, because they were unusual and difficult to come to grips with. Sidonius’ description of the symbiosis between Saxon, ship and sea strongly suggests that 480 ce sailing ships existed in Northwest Europe.

Sidonius writes primarily to prove that he understands the perils of Namatius’ coast guarding and secondly in the end of his letter he demonstrates that he has complete confidence in the admiral. Nothing in the description of these terrorists seems wrong, and as Sidonius knows, taking more prisoners than one can safely bring home is a very good reason for sacrificing every tenth of them by chance if you are a rational and not just superstitious barbarian believing in fate. The prisoners are on the boats and thrown overboard just before the Saxons set out to sail home and decimation – as practiced by the Roman army – creates discipline.

If we look at the description of their setting sails:

Praeterea, priusquam de continenti in patriam vela laxantes hostico mordaces anchoras vado vellant, mos est—Moreover, prior to leaving the continent and enemy territory for their homeland, about to pull out their biting anchors and broad sails, it is their habit … .

we understand that they are living on their ships on the water as pirates making landfall. When Sidonius writes … priusquam de continenti in patriam vela laxantes hostico vado vellant, mos est …, he falls back on Vergil, Aeneid 1 169 (1) when Aeneas anchors on the Libyan coast. The 5th c. Afro-Roman author Dracontius, moreover, seems to have been drawing on both Vergil and Sidonius in his description of boats anchored on a shore, a very North-African situation. The fact that Sidonius writes to someone able to judge his description and that he inspires a poet to draw upon his formulation when describing a common phenomenon indicates that Sidonius’ second-hand description stood out as authentic.


There is something Pirate or Viking about Sidonius’ Saxons. Their tactics described in section 14, match a piratic strategy and it is not surprising that traveller Widsith has been together with two kinds of EIA Vikings. Indirectly, we may infer the existence of Vikings from the function of the barrages in EIA Denmark and find support for Viking behaviour in the odd water-related name on early runic inscriptions, such as Sikijaz (one who lives on a syke) or Wagagastiz (a guest from the wave). There are also similarities between Sidonius’ letter and Beowulf. The poem touches upon sailing and raiding allegedly one generation after Sidonius. Beowulf and his 15 armed warriors sail. Probably they are arch-pirates to Sidonius, but heroes in the poem. These fifteen men do not set out on their expedition until they have observed omens (vv 204 and 217). Later in the poem we are told that King Hygelac was killed in an attack on Friesland and the Franks by a Merovingian force. His combined naval and military operation failed and from the first description of the strife in which Hygelac was killed, it is obvious that it took place at least partly on the ships. As it happens, Beowulf, having fought well, jumps overboard and swims home. Fate, disrespect for water and the symbiosis Saxon–ship–sea, which Sidonius pointed to, would seem to have found a fantastic and eloquent exponent in Beowulf (vv 2354-66). Although Sidonius’ letter and Beowulf value their material differently they describe the same technology-based warfare.

Given the complementarity of their perspectives the actual profile of the Grönån canal (OtRR 4 February, 2013), becomes chronologically interesting. As Jan Bill points out (Bill 1997:187f. finns i reflistan) referring to the shape of the Oseberg ship, its frames were made of several pieces of wood in a brace-shaped [ }] rather than curved [ )] section. This construction created a stability essential for sailing the ship. Curved sections on the other hand result in faster albeit crank ships. Sidonius/Beowulf, c. 500, the Grönån section, c. 600, the Salme ships, c. 700 (2) and the Oseberg ship circa. 800 ce indicate a long and gradual technological development of the sailing ship in a naval/military Scandinavian setting. It is this long-term perspective which suggests that the Saxons were in fact sailing home already c. 480 CE.


(1) Tizzoni, Mark Lewis. 2014. Dracontius and the wider world. Cultural and intellectual interconnectedness in late fifth-century Vandal North Africa. Networks & Neighbours: Vol. 2.1: ‘Comparisons and Correlations’. Pp. 87-105.

(2) Bill, Jan. 1997. Ships and Seamanship. In: Peter Sawyer (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. Oxford. Pp 182-201.
Juri Peets. 2013. Salme ship burials. Revealing a grim cargo of elite Viking warriors. Current World Archaeology vol 58. Pp. 18-24

This week On the Reading Rest I have the report from the excavations at Väster Hacksta (West Hacksta or Hacksta in this text). Hacksta is a settlement south southeast of Gilltuna and the second of the three almost totally excavated Iron Age settlement sites in the western outskirts of Västerås: Gilltuna, Hacksta and Skälby. In this entry I continue the chronological analysis of these settlements, introduced OtRR 22 Sep 2014. In two weeks’ time or four I will discuss the chronology of Skälby and summarize all three posts.

Overview 00

OmslagLagerstedt, Anna & Lindwall, Linda. 2008. Äldre järnålder i Väster Hacksta – Hus, hägn och gård. RAÄ 1060, 1061 och 1062 Västerås stad, Västmanlands län. Med bidrag av Lotta Fernstål och Svante Norr. Rapporter från Arkeologikonsult 2008:2067. Acronym: LaLi.
In the report Svante Norr has discussed and analysed the 14C dates (LaLi: 33-39 and (0)). He concludes, convincingly, that the settlement, which consisted of a number of farm sites, was established in the PRIA and more or less abandoned in the end of the 4th century CE.


Overview 01

The earliest dates, 2340-2100 bp, are six dates at site C, and one at A. At Site E there is an early outlier, 2085 bp dating the solitary house VH11. The 14C dates of these early settlement stages look like outliers to the bulk of dates because the sites were used sporadically in a system based on rotation between a number of sites defined during a couple of hundred years. Eventually one site (C) is established as a small village. When the dates at Site C come to end 1930 bp, except for an outlier 1840 bp, Site E starts to produce a series of new dates up and until c. 1700 bp. Site B seems to have been used for the first time c. 1975 bp when Site C was still the central settlement site. After 1700 bp, only sites A and B were occupied. Site A was a small farm, but the homestead at Site B was no more than a croft and in the end probably just a barn standing on a plot (cf. OtRR 18 March 2013).

Generally speaking, therefore, Hacksta shows the expected development: (1) sporadic presence at different sites in the EPRIA (2) turns into a small village accompanied by (3) the odd peripheral homestead. (4) Perhaps unexpected this village site is given up in the ERIA and a new village created at Site E. (5) In the LRIA, not surprisingly, Village E is given up. (6) A few peripheral homesteads survive into the first decades of the EPCIA.
In this development, and exactly as we have learnt to expect, several sites, first visited in the PRIA, continued to be attractive sites in the human landscape.

Since the Hacksta Village C seems to move c. 200m eastwards to become Hacksta Village E in the 1st c. CE, it may be interesting to look into the chronology of this change. To analyse the relation between Hacksta Village C and E I will use BCal – an on-line Baysian radiocarbon calibration tool (1).
The first step in the modelling is to exclude the outliers and house VH18 from the samples and check the chronological relation between sample C and sample E.

Overview 02

The two samples are taken to represent the occupation of Sites C and E and to begin with we do not build any specific relation between them into the model. Since BCal will model the ‘posterior probability distributions for an estimate of the time elapsed between the events represented by two parameters’, this posterior probability distribution will be our point of departure in order to analyse the relation. In this case this distribution suggests an overlap (negative values) between the end of Hacksta C and beginning of Hacksta E, albeit perhaps a small one.

Intuitively this is the expected relationship because, generally speaking, gradual rather than abrupt change seems likely in the first century CE. Intuitive or not, it is reasonable to add it as a fact to the model that there was in effect an overlap in time between the end of the early settlement Hacksta C and the beginning of the later settlement Hacksta E and revise the model. The next step, therefore, is to query (1) the possibility that at a certain calendar date Hacksta C had come to an end and (2) the possibility that at this date Hacksta E had commenced. If we compare these two queries we may conclude that the period 40 to 70 CE is the most likely period to be characterized by an overlap between Hacksta C and E.

Analysis 02

So far we can conclude that some time in the middle of the first century CE, the first farm in Hacksta E was erected before the last farm in Hacksta C was pulled down. We may thus ask ourselves whether the first farm in Hacksta E was an addition to the farms in Hacksta C or a farm transition from Hacksta C to Hacksta E.

Overview 03

If we map the youngest dates from Hacksta C and the oldest Hacksta E dates, they stand out as concentrated to specific farms. The older dates from Hacksta C (disregarding the outliers) are evenly dispersed, suggesting that the three last farms had forerunners, except for the large farm in the northwest with the main house VH11. Turning to Area E it is obvious that the first farm established there was the large northern farm, represented by the houses VH19 & 22. If we disregard the dates related to this the first farm in Village E, we can ask ourselves whether in that case a hiatus occurs between Area C and Area E.
Therefore, when we query: ‘an estimate of the probability that the event represented by beta 1 (i.e. the end of Village C) is earlier than the event represented by alpha 2‘ (i.e. the foundation of the second farm in Village E), then BCal returns the probability = 0.9425471. This means that if we disregard the first solitary farm at Site E (houses VH19 & 22), then it is reasonable to speak of a gap between the last farm in Village C and the beginning of Hacksta Village E, as signified by the second farm in the area. There is in other words a gap between Hacksta C and the village Hacksta E as represented by the dates 1885-1700bp. This latter period is the one in which Village E spreads to the South and the West. During this change, the situation of the large farm VH19 &22 is stable.

Overview 04

Comparing Area C with Area E in this way it becomes apparent that the structure of the two villages differs. Village C is condensed occupying the same sites most of the time. Only towards the end of the settlement period was a large farm (houses VH11 & VH14(?)) added to the eastern part of the settlement. Village E, on the other hand, was established as a solitary large farm partly contemporary with the last farm(s) in village C. After a while this farm is accompanied by smaller farms, probably around an open area facing north. The large farm, VH19 & 22, resettles the plot where the first farm house at Site E stood more than 100 years earlier. This means that the large first farm returns to the historical roots of Area E.


Since the 14C-tests dating house VH11, i.e. the late large farm in Hacksta Village C, are fragments of two different posts both with the central value 1970 bp, it stands to reason that these tests date the construction of the house and that they may have an age of their own which should be subtracted from 1970 bp (i.e. 1970bp–the age of the timber in calendar years). The dates from VH19 & 22, the first farm in Village E, on the other hand, are hearth dates mirroring an occupation phase. This makes it likely that it was the large farm in Village C (VH11 & 14(?)) that moved out of this village and establishes itself as a large farm (VH19 & 22) at Site E. Later this farm becomes the dominant farm in the Northeast corner of the village Hacksta E. Farm ‘VH19&22’ is privileged because it has easy access to the meadows and grasslands north and east of the village.
Social change combined with spatial change in RIA not unique to the Mälar Valley. At Vendehøj in Jutland a PRIA village was taken over by a dominant farm similar to Hacksta C when the farm VH11 & 14(?) was established. In Jutland as well as in the Mälar Valley this happened in the 1st c. CE. Similarly, the resettling of a site with a village marked by a dominant farm, happens on a much larger and more prolific scale at Vorbasse in Jutland (2).

Hacksta, Village E comes to an end with the event moddelled as ‘beta 2’, which can be dated by BCal when it returns a posterior probability distribution and highest probability density (HPD) intervals for the event.

Overview 05Given these intervals it would seem that the village was abandoned in the 4th century CE – probably the middle of the century. This abandonment is not the end of the Hacksta settlement in as much as the small settlements, Site A and B established while Village E was still inhabited, existed also in the 5th century, albeit not necessarily continuously. Nevertheless, the settlement shrinks considerably when Hacksta E is closed down.

We might have expected that the small homesteads disappeared first. Since this is not the case we should perhaps draw the conclusion that the crisis was caused by the loss of woods, inasmuch as access to firewood around villages might well have become scares forcing people to walk far in a landscape with few roads in order to cover daily needs. Contrary to a village a small peripheral homestead with limited needs could find niches with limited open areas, but better access to forests. Such farms and crofts although not very successful might well be able to sustain themselves a little longer than villages during reforestation. Better roads, optimal situations, fewer people or fewer grazing animals and more grain are the only solutions to this problem.

(0) See: Norr, Svante. 2000. 14C-dateringar i boplatskontext: metodstudier utifrån exemplet Väster Hacksta, Västerås. Rapporter från Arkeologikonsult 2009:2067b.
(1) 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. (
(2) See: Herschend 2009:229ff (Vendehøj) & 73ff (Vorbasse)

This week On the Reading Rest I have the collected textual fragments and quotations of a movement of philosophical thought. It wasn’t a school and none of its members, if they can be called so, stand out as great individual thinkers. They were and have continued to be important because they were the prime philosophical target of Plato and Aristotle (P&A). Since they were first criticized some of their fundamental ideas have reoccurred again and again – Cover01not least since the Enlightenment. Next to this collection I have an article by Richard Mulgan.

Sprague, Rosamond Kent. 1972. The Older Sophists. Hackett Publishing Company Acronym: TOS

cover 02 Mulgan, Richard G. 1979. Lycophron and Greek Theories of Social Contract. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan. – Mar., 1979), pp. 121-128.

Stable URL: Acronym: RiMul


To P&A the sophists of the 400s BCE who very partly contemporary with Socrates, in effect older than P&A themselves and almost dead, were examples of intellectuals, who were fundamentally wrong and dangerous. P&A on the other hand were right and Plato constructed TOS as a fixed historical situation, in effect a background rather than a time span, prior to his own lifetime. Against this fond and partly entangled in it Socrates was depicted as the beginning of Plato’s critique of TOS. As exempla of a failed course, the members of this movement as well as Socrates were not historical persons, but mouthpieces of the past. Socrates, the forerunner of the present was a de facto victim of the past. If one feels the need to build a philosophical system, then this is a way of depicting the past as a two-dimensional background, is model. It implies that since the past is a backdrop of differing meanings, in essence confusion, we may safely put it behind us.

Lycophron was one of TOS and we know almost nothing about him – a very common sophist fate indicating that they were many more than we will ever know. Formally RiMul is a critique of W. K. C. Guthrie, who in A History of Greek Philosophy, Vol. 3 The Sophists, Cambridge, Chapter 5:140 1971 wrote that Lycophron: would have agreed with J[ohn] S[tuart] Mill that the only purpose for which law could rightly be enforced against a member of a community was to prevent harm to others; his own good, physical or moral, was not sufficient warrant. If this is true, then Lycophron applied a very specific meaning to the concept ‘social contract’.

About Lycophron and indirectly social contract, Aristotle, Politics III 5, said: … ‘the community becomes an alliance, differing only in location from the other sorts of alliance where the members live at a distance. And the laws become a convention and, as Lycophron said: a guarantor of mutual rights, but not such as to make the citizen good or just.’ (TOS:69)

To begin with RiMul sums up what 5th and 4th century BCE Greeks thought about political contract theory. This allows him convincingly to show that neither Lycophron, nor any other older sophist, inasmuch as they were not 19th c CE. liberals, thought so narrowly about the significance of law in relation to social contracts. Convincingly RiMul argues that Aristotle was not at all interested in discussing what Lycophron actually meant because his exact words, a striking preamble, yet void of specific intention – law is the guarantor of mutual rights – were enough to disqualify him. As far as Aristotle was concerned, law was a means in the hands of the virtuous intended to ‘make the citizens good and just’. Lycophron didn’t think so.

The Journal of the History of Ideas in its turn thought that this unobjectionable critique of Guthrie’s casual name dropping, used by Mulgan as a hook baited with “social contract”, to say something interesting, couldn’t be printed without a reply from Guthrie. Because of the attached reply, and unintendedly, RiMul became a post-structural critique of an older school of researchers. Today, wise in the event, the arrogant and arrogantly short reply from Guthrie stand out as typical of the way an older generation of researchers thought they could rely on their own authority, and the straightforward unquestionable authority they ascribed to giants such as Aristotle, to snub a new generation of researchers. Together, article and comment make up a snapshot of the 1970s turned yellow.

Looking up Lycophron in TOS it would seem that he took an interest in concepts such as communion or reciprosity. Again, according to Aristotle, Metaphysics VIII 6, Lycophron is supposed to have said that ‘knowledge is a communion of knowing and of soul’. Seemingly fond of playing with words Lycophron, when asked, at least according to a comment by Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. 200 CE), what was the cause of the unity of knowledge [sic! not ‘of knowing’] and the soul he replied: ‘the communion.’ Knowledge obviously wasn’t something Lycophron thought was caused, in an Aristotelian sense. Instead his answer indicates that when it comes to knowledge, complementarity is what matters – knowledge is a state of communion in any conscious human being. Neither Knowing nor soul alone qualify as knowledge.

In the individual, knowledge is a condition or simply part of one’s identity and awareness of oneself. But if people live in a community, then we must ask ourselves: how can our individuality, which among other things, according to Lycophron, comprises knowing and soul make knowledge part of their mutual identity? I.e., how does social knowledge come about when people must experience mutual communion?

Since it is an academic sport to guess what Lycophron would have said had he not been prevented by Aristotle, one may suggest that Lycophron, in a fit of modesty, would not have had an answer to this question. He would, nevertheless, have said that a precondition for finding an answer depended on laws that guarantee mutual, that is, communal rights – e.g. the right within a community to be knowledgeable. To a sophist such as Lycophron the knowledgeable: possessing or showing knowledge; well-informed, well-read; sagacious, wise, educated (according to OED), would have been virtue he would have loved to hold up to Aristotle – if only to irritate him.

Lycophron was probably good at that. For instance, Aristotle, who else, illustrates one of four types of insipid expression by quoting Lycophron: ‘the narrow-passaged promontory’ or ‘the many-visaged sky of the mighty-peaked earth’ (Rhetoric III 3). Perhaps playing with words wasn’t Aristotle’s thing.


Of six quotations referring to Lycophron (TOS:68-9) five are by Aristotle. In the outstanding one Lycophron managed to express himself in a most subtle way when pointing at nobility he said: ‘Now the nobility of good birth is obscure, and its grandeur a matter of words’. This may first be seen as audacious, but given that Lycophron’s grandeur too was a matter of words it simply confirms the importance of words for those who want grandeur – the Lycophrons as well as royal tutors such as Aristotle. It may be significant that Aristotle didn’t offer a comment.

Judging from what he was remembered for, Lycophron’s most successful contribution was his ability to coin phrases. There is no point of accusing him of having constructed a philosophical system. Like many sophists his point of departure was contextual, understanding context to change significantly with time and space. We might have called him a post-structuralist except for the fact that, historically speaking, he and other older sophists were pre-structuralists. Post- or pre-, his legacy rested with his ability to irritate Aristotle enough to be quoted so often that the quotes can be read as a critique of Aristotle.

Gilltuna omslagThis week On the Reading Rest I have a report in Swedish from the excavation of a small village in Västmanland, Gilltuna, in the western outskirts of today’s Västerås. It is the westernmost of three Iron Age settlements, situated east, south and west of an open area of meadows and grassland. Skälby, Väster Hacksta and Gilltuna have been excavated during the last 20 years because the Västerås has grown. The area was colonized in the Late Bronze Age and settlements expanded during the centuries around the beginning of the Common Era.

Sundkvist, A. and Eklund, S. 2014. Gilltuna – där man följde traditionen. Den första storskaligt undersökta tuna-gården. SAU rapport 2014:4. Acronym: ASuSEk.

Gilltuna fig 00

Since the whole Gilltuna settlement area has been excavated, archaeological and historical source materials can be brought together allowing us to follow the development of the area and its settlements during 2300 years up and until today.

From Maja Eriksson’s chapter on the historical maps we learn that today’s Gilltuna is a small farm established in 1628 (ASuSEk, Eriksson:14 ff.). It was called Gilltuna because it was situated on or adjacent to farmlands that were called ‘Gilltuna’. This estate was first mentioned 1384 when it was still relatively large. Gilltuna might have been an estate without farm houses already then and soon it was split-up and farmed by neighbouring landowners and tennants. On the cadastral maps from the early 18th century, nevertheless, ‘The Gilltuna fields’ have been marked out exactly where the archaeological excavations found the remains of farm houses that had been used until the Late Carolingian Iron Age (LCIA, late 10th century). Remains of the Early Medieval farm houses have not been found, and they might very well have been destroyed by ploughing, but the excavations showed that there were still two farms in the village in the 10th century. In 1384 there was obviously just one estate. The two CIA farms go back to what was originally a single Pre Carolingian Iron Age (PCIA) farm situated inside a stout enclosure, i.e. a ‘tun’ in Swedish (ASuSEk:135). The suffix ‘-tun’ is similar to the suffix ‘-ton’ in Anglo-Saxon place names such as Brighton – Beorhthelmes tūn in Old English. There are many kinds of enclosures and as a place name ‘Tuna’ (plural of ‘tun’) may stand alone. Moreover, when combined, the meaning of the first part of the names varies considerably.

Gilltuna fig 04In Gilltuna, the enclosure is a prominent feature measuring c. 44×44 metres or 144×144 feet. It is a formal enclosure and a plot respected and maintained during hundreds of years. From a purely practical point of view it is a rather pointless restriction, which makes the manifest significance of the enclosure all the more important. This enclosure is connected with the revival in the Late Iron Age (LIA) of the Early Iron Age (EIA) village. This latter village was replaced by a rather large farm, which in its turn was accompanied by a small croft 40m south of the enclosure close to the brook. It seems reasonable to suggest that something radical happened in the settlement and this event in all probability resulted in a farm called Tuna or perhaps Gilltuna. The first part Gill- may refer to people feasting together (ASuSEk, Engström:200). In that case they would have been doing it in the large house behind the enclosure rather than on a farm marked by subsistence economy.

Based on 51 14C-dates ASuSEk divide the settlement into eight phases. The settlement starts with one or two farms spread out in the area. There is a time gap between the first and the second farm in the area and that suggests that to begin with, when it came to farm houses, there was no continuous presence in the area. But already in the Late Pre Roman Iron Age (LPRIA) there were several contemporary farms in the area. By then the settlement had become a small village with an ad hoc structure visible as a number of farm sites not always boasting a farm. This is the expected settlement development.

Around 500 CE the 14C-dates indicate that there was a hiatus in the central part of the settlement and after this break the -tuna farm was erected. ASuSEk discuss the 14C-dates, and find that the hiatus in the central part of the settlement is a plausible interpretation. Nevertheless, the Gilltuna area as such was not completely abandoned. In the easternmost part of the settlement in an area mostly used for outdoor purposes there was a small cottage with a fire place dated 1531 bp +/- 30 and a date, 1574 bp +/-30, from the well just outside the house. The size of this cottage is c. 60m2, with a 24 m2 dwelling room, a small central entrance room and perhaps a cowshed similar to the size of the dwelling. This is quite possibly a small croft and at the time the only inhabited building at Gilltuna.

Gilltuna fig 01When we look at the remaining 49 14C-dates as a general probability distribution they seem to fall on three parts. An intuitive analysis of 14C-dates from Gilltuna, therefore, suggests that there was an initial presence in the PRIA (Phase 0), a permanent phase from the end of the LPRIA to the EPCIA (Phase1) and a third Phase commencing in the LPCIA and coming to an end in the LCIA (Phase 2).


The possible time gap between Phase 1 and Phase 2 merits a more formal analysis because this break seems to fall in the middle of the 1st millennium CE, and a period characterized by radical change also in Scandinavia. Usually we do not see this kind of hiatus and re-settlement in excavations, because generally speaking a settlement given up in the middle of the 1st millennium was demolished and/or incorporated into more prosperous villages in the given settlement area. Usually these villages survived into historical times. Since Gilltuna is an exception to this rule, it would be interesting to know more precisely when the re-settlement took place.

Consequently, if we turn to the representation of the phases in the central part of the settlement, as singled out by ASuSEk, it becomes natural to ask when Phase 2 commenced and when Phase 1 came to an end. There is in other words good reasons in the archaeological context and its 14C dates to consider it a fact that in the first part of the first millennium CE there were two different settlement phases at Gilltuna – a 1st phase followed by a 2nd phase.

Thus the first question to be asked is whether there was a hiatus between the two phases? To answer this question I will use BCal – an on-line Baysian radiocarbon calibration tool (1).

To begin with we want to know the probability that the data set, which dates Phase 1, is indeed earlier than the corresponding data in Phase 2. What BCal returns is an estimate of the probability that the event represented by beta 1 (i.e. the modelled end of Phase 1 consisting of 30 14C-tests) is earlier than the event represented by alpha 2 (i.e. the modelled beginning of Phase 2 consisting of 19 14C-tests). The probability is 0.968313. We can in other words safely conclude that Phase 1 came to an end before Phase 2 commenced.

Including this as a fact in our modelling we will re-define Phase 1 as definitely earlier than Phase 2. Since this is now true the query: An estimate of the probability that the event represented by beta 1 is earlier than the event represented by alpha 2 returns the probability 0.9995472.

Gilltuna fig 02Based on this model we can proceed and ask ourselves what ‘earlier than’ will mean in terms of a time gap or hiatus. BCal will model the ‘posterior probability distributions for an estimate of the time elapsed between the events represented by two parameters’. In our case these parameters are once again Beta 1 (the end of Phase 1) and Alpha 2 (the beginning of Phase 2). We will set the significance level to 0.95 and ask BCal to estimate the lapsed time between highest posterior density intervals (HPD intervals in years) for Alpha 2 and Beta 1. The estimate is 25 to 182 years. This means that we must think of a hiatus of 25 years and probably more.

Having drawn this conclusion we can proceed and try to relate the settlement phases to The Cold Decade 536-545 CE (TCD). This decade is important because it could have caused the death of a large part of the population (cf. OtRR 18 mar 2013). We ask: what is the probability that the event Beta 1, i.e. the end of Phase 1, took place before the year 536 CE and the volcanic eruption that is supposed to have resulted in a cold decade?

The probability for that is 0.9795934 and we must thus conclude that Phase 1 came to an end before 536 CE. Actually it is very likely (probability 0.90254027) that the hiatus started before the 500 CE.

What then is the probability that Phase 2 commenced after TCD, i.e. after the year 545 CE?

The probability for that is relatively low, 0.756811, but it is nevertheless more likely that the new settlement commenced after 545 CE than before. Bearing this in mind we can ask BCal to return the possibility that that Phase 2 had not commenced 600 CE. That probability is as low as 0.061325524.

If we sum up the modelling so far we have established (1) that there was indeed a gap between Phase 1 and Phase 2 and (2) that Phase 1 came to an end well before 536 CE. It seems that Phase 2 commenced after 545 CE, but it is not obvious. It is much more likely, however, (3) that Phase 2 commenced before 600 CE. In the next step in the modelling we will take this latter possibility for granted and introduce what BCal calls ‘a floating parameter, Phi 1’. In this case Phi 1 is the year 600 CE. In the model, therefore, it becomes a fact that the calendar year 600 CE is absolutely posterior to the beginning of Phase 2 – the event Alpha 2 modelled by BCal.

Adding this parameter to the model, we may once again ask about the probability that Phase 2 had commenced a certain year CE. The effect of the floating parameter can be seen in a diagram.

Gilltuna fig 03

Comparing the two models (with or without a floating parameter) to each other it becomes plausible that the large farm characterizing the beginning of settlement Phase 2 was established within a generation after TCD. It may have happened earlier, but that is not likely. The growth in probability 550 to 570 is probably indicative of the beginning of Phase 2 and dates prior to 530 have low probabilities.

It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that in the EIA ‘Gilltuna’ settlement, whose real name we don’t know, crisis became a fact in the EPCIA well before TCD. This amount to saying that the first stable settlement period (Phase 1) with several contemporary farms probably came to an end before 500 CE. Around 500 CE, a period in which the calibration curve is more or less horizontal, a small peripheral cottage, c. 60m2, with a 24 m2 dwelling room was the only standing building in the area (cf. ASuSEk:68-69). After this abode and TCD had disappeared, i.e. some time between 550 and 580 CE, the ‘tuna’ farm, perhaps Gilltuna, had become a fact. It might well be that events in TCD triggered the foundation of the ‘tuna’ farm, but in that case, crisis prior to this decade had already emptied the settlement paving the way for the takeover, which might or might not have been unfriendly to the crofter in the eastern outskirts,

Gilltuna is interesting because it is a god example of an excavated place name. The ‘tun’, the enclosure, is difficult to miss and owing to the hiatus it is fair to suggest that the ‘tun’ at Gilltuna was a mid-millennium invention organized as a takeover of an abandoned or almost abandoned agricultural area. The enclosure marks a new regime. This kind of takeover or re-establishment of a settlement is not unique. On the contrary, seen in relation to the many abandoned RIA and EPCIA settlements, this was probably what happened in most of the settlement areas. The vast majority of the settlements were abandoned, but the better ones were successfully re-established and contract archaeology has had no reason to excavate them because they are easy to avoid when exploiting a landscape creating industrial areas and suburbs. The specific character of Gilltuna is thus not the EPCIA abandonment. Instead, it is the abandonment during the Early Middle Ages (EMA) – that which robbed us of a village rooted in the LIA – that is noteworthy. This abandonment and urban expansion combined 2010 giving contract archaeology an extraordinary possibility to excavate a relatively large settlement that was given up in the Middle Ages. Contract archaeology brought the excavations to a successful conclusion.


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. (



This week On the Reading Rest I have an article that discusses the reburial of indigenous people once exhumed for the benefit mainly of race biology. The article focuses on the ethics of complex situations, questionable already when they occurred. Today, more or less by definition, the roots of the problems belong to a relatively remote past that we are able to judge without too much ado. Thus I too, wise in the event, read:

NAR nummerSvestad, Asgeir. 2013. What Happened in Neiden? On the Question of Reburial ethics. Norwegian Archaeological Review. Vol. 46, No. 2, 194-242. Acronym: ASve.

To most readers Neiden, if anything, is geography, a point on a map of Northernmost Norway and a river where we do not live. The actual place, nevertheless, is a settlement called ‘Skoltebyn’—a place where Skolt Sámi people live, although there are very few left. This place name suggests that non-Skolts, the very great majority, needed to define the place. Skoltebyn is probably full of living traditions with little historical evidence to corroborate or question and reconstruct the past and the present. ASve’s approach is straightforward geographical and historical. He defines the place on a map and in relation to two precisely dated historical events. In essence, his approach is based on facts and the individual opinion of some of those who took part in 1915 and 2011. Wider aspects, the more we know about them, are brought in when necessary, but in principle everything pivots on what happened in July 1915 and September 2011. ASve’s analysis of the two situations is revealing and cautious.

It turns out that history allows itself to play a trick on everyone involved in the two events. Notwithstanding, the central question is simple enough: what, if anything, should be done with the bones from Neiden? Needless to say we know very little about the bones too.

To the physician and odontologist of 1915, Johan Brun, bones and even skeletons were a source material worth describing because without anatomical knowledge there would have been no physicians. Anatomical description wherever possible is thus above the individual physician – ideally speaking. It is difficult, therefore, to accept a physician who for ethical reasons would not be prepared to use the human body as a source material, nor use the evidence-based knowledge about broken bones, often obtained without ethical considerations, to help us. Still today a large number of corpses are anatomized. This doesn’t give Johan Brun the right to go to Neiden and loot a cemetery it just creates an everlasting ethical problem.

The still unsettled cemetery

The reason is simple – we think of our forefathers as our heritage and thus as ours by right! Except of course if we are landowners. If that is the case, we may think that we own what is on our land exploiting it is as best we wish. Landownership as opposed to communal rights is a cornerstone of practical colonialism and the relatively rich Johan Brun took advantage of a relatively poor landowner Ondre Jakobovitsj, who knew that there were inhumation graves on his land. Since his land was not on the early colonial monument still in use, i.e. the Orthodox chapel and churchyard in Neiden, he sold Brun the right or a concession to dig on his land and take skeletons back to Oslo – payment per skeleton. To buy and sell in this way may be seen as unethical and condemned, accepted, pardoned or hailed. Irrespective of our point of view it may in time repeatedly be condemned, accepted, pardoned or hailed.

Only oblivion can save us from heritage and ethical problems, and that is the reason why much heritage legislation is built on oblivion. When something material is no longer used or when it has been forgotten, i.e. when it has fallen into oblivion while still existing, i.e. when its role as meaningful in a living culture has come to an end, then it becomes accepted as everybody’s heritage and protected by law despite the fact that we lack knowledge about it. If it comes to our knowledge it must be treated with respect and preserved as best we can. Since preservation is impossible in the long run, and since knowledge can be reproduced, respecting the past as our heritage is knowledge driven. The more we know, the more will become our heritage and revived material culture. In a democratic society this may solve a lot of ethical problems, but obviously not all.

Brun's excavationBoth Johan Brun and Ondre Jakobovitsj acted unethically because they should have understood that the existing churchyard was no more than a part of a larger burial ground – in all probability its pre-Christian parts, which had fallen into oblivion and thus become part of our common heritage. The ideological colonialism of Christianity, which denounced indigenous culture and faith, is to blame for the oblivion. At least Johan Brun ought to have understood this. Needless to say, in this situation the obvious cannot be proved. Most of what we know about what happened in 1915 is what Johan Brun told us in his report and he steered clear of ethics, context and any wider perspective. The skeletons exhumed were his objective, the living his problem. Bargaining with the locals, Brun spend money, but ASve doesn’t mention whether Brun was compensated for his expenses. It stands to reason, nevertheless, that he was, and if so his description of the way he haggled with Jakobovitsj makes sense inasmuch as it demonstrates that he did not waste money.


True to his approach, which is based on Heidegger’s view upon the disclosure of the hidden and the care and being that characterizes humans, ASve goes beyond describing what happened in 1915 and 2011 respectively, and his Heideggerian discussion works quite well. Nevertheless, being and care didn’t characterize the agents when they took part in the disclosed events. Moreover, I don’t think it is possible to lay bare or disclose the 1915 and 2011 events, because there is nothing specific – no essence – to lay bare. Contrary to Heidegger I don’t think that nur ein Gott kann uns retten – only a god can save us – because such an entity cannot be disclosed. Inventing a god or seeing oneself as one, jeopardizes the human, i.e. the agents now and again bothered by ethics. I find enlightenment and emancipation a better approach to ethics.

No ethics will solve ethical problems. Oblivion will erase them, but we learn nothing from oblivion because knowledge in a historical situation, be it past or present, is the only way to come to terms with ethical problems. Knowledge often fails, even if it concerns disclosure, because it is easily disputed by those who take only a limited interest in the obvious. Care and being are roads to ethical shortcomings and Heidegger’s life is a case in point. Being, moreover, is hard to avoid and care is a cornerstone in reproduction – caring for those who cannot survive without it.

ReburialASve is cautious when he describes the events that led up to the reburial in September 2011. One might say that he discloses the events in an unbiased manner rather than he exposes them. While the reader reads between the lines, ASve is true to his sober method – almost. The comment on the Orthodox tradition that governed the reburial is an exception (ASve:211, col. 2).

Actually there is no need to be cautious because the events leading up to September 2011 make up a textbook example of how a majority marginalizes a minority. In this case the Sámi community, the majority among the indigenous people in northern Scandinavia, and organized around Sametinget (the Sámi Parliament), has turned a place central to a minority, the almost extinct Neiden Skolts, into a memorial of its own and a protected heritage area. The Neiden Skolts have been sqeezed into heritage. In this process, as we would expect from a textbook example, the 10 odd Skolts involved have been divided into a larger group of people who find themselves excluded and alienated and a few who back-up the powerful Sámi majority.

Njauddâm sijddAt least since 1826 Skolt identity has been threatened (1). In this year the border between Finland (Russia) and Norway (Sweden) was closed and the Skolt community and its settlement area – both referred to as Njauddâm sijdd lost its land, and began losing its identity, being unable to live in the sijdd in the intended yearly cycle. While the sijdd used to be orientated towards Russia the frontier delimination meant that Spring and Summer was incorporated in Norway, while Autumn and Winter and most of the population stayed in Finland. In Norway the population was concentrated to Njauddâm (Now: Neiden), the summer site of the sijdd, in a permanent settlement called Skoltebyn. For more than a millennium the sijdd’s cemetery and since the 16th c. the orthodox St George chapel and its churchyard were already situated at Neiden. Soon a protestant chapel marked Norwegian colonization and the ideological consequences of the closed border.

neidenkapellkartaThe marginalization of the Skolts and their loss of identity has continued. Their language is no longer spoken in Norway, they are not represented in Sametinget. In effect, Neiden rather than being part of the Skolt Njauddâm sijdd has been culturally annexed by the Sámi and become a site where this people demonstrates its unified heritage and ideology at the expense of the identity of the Skolts. Neiden has become a protected heritage area and a museum site dedicated to Skolt culture. Ironically, as if the authorities awaited Skolt culture and the last Skolt to pass away, the museum building has been left empty and leaking through the roof since 2008.

the burial siteThe reburial fits the cultural demise of the Njauddâm sijdd. As ASve shows Johan Brun excavated more than a sample of Sámi skeletons. He found an unknown cemetery older than the Christianization of the Skolts with a potential of reviving an unknown Skolt history with a potential to illustrate the Skolt interaction with other people. Moreover, given that Neiden was the millennia old summer site of the Njauddâm sijdd it is by no means certain that all the human remains were Skolts. The Neiden Skolts understood this and that was obviously their reason to place the skeletons in a respectful context without destroying them as a source material. In view of losing their history or recovering it, they opted for knowledge. It is obvious from ASve’s analysis that destructing the source material and keeping Skolt history in the firm grip of decay and oblivion to benefit their own ideas of essentialist colonial and Christian ethics guided the representatives of the Sámi establishment. The representatives of the Church of Norway and the representatives of the Orthodox Church, moreover, were supported by the Norwegian Government and its institutions.

There may be utilitarian reasons to destroy remains of the past, mainly the resent past, and the representatives of a society may judge it to be necessary and have the power to act accordingly. In the Neiden case it is difficult to find any reason for anybody except Skolts to destroy Skolt history. An ossuary would have been an alternative to the slow destruction in the burial mound – echoing a distinctly South Scandinavian past – in which the 94 small wooden coffins are now decaying. This mound can be appreciated only as a monument of the colonialist oppression that the Scandinavian majority societies have subjected their minorities to. While doing so, they effectively taught the tame majority groups within the minorities to act likewise against their minorities. Since this is a never-ending process it is important that the Neiden reburial story split the Neiden Skolts. Divide et impera is at the heart of the matter. ASve lets his quotations speak for themselves rather than pointing the reader in the right direction. This is quite an effective strategy not least given the context in which representatives of those in power speak. Here they are at Neiden, literally burying the history of the Neiden Skolts in a mound letting it moulder away, and the Minister for Reform, Administration and Church Affairs says:
‘ – I hope this will remind us of the importance of reconciliation. We should lift our eyes and use this opportunity to look at the need to protect Skolt Sámi language and culture’—Jeg håper dette kan minne oss på betydningen av forsoning. Vi bør løfte blikket og bruke anledningen til å se på behovet for å ivareta skoltesamenesspråk og kultur,

the newspaper adds: ’she thinks.’—mener hun.

Indeed, and she is right, of course! This need to protect Skolt language and culture is visible in the sky only, i.e. above the grey September clouds over Neiden. Moreover, as Minister of Church Affairs it is appropriate in this solemn context to express a pious hope echoing a biblical phrase. In fact, almost anything one could say as an official representative will add to the unintended but nevertheless carefully constructed irony of the occasion.

Only knowledge can save us – nur eine Erkenntnis kann uns retten.



(1) The history of the Skolts and the injustices done to them is outlined (in Nowegian) in an official governmental commission 1997