Ruin On An Islet

Christian Loven's plan of Landsjö Islet with letters marking on-going fieldwork. Christian Loven's plan of Landsjö Islet with letters marking on-going fieldwork.

Landsjö castle is on a high islet in the lake next to the modern manor house. Nobody ever goes there. The ruins are covered by vegetation and they're in bad shape: only along the western side of the islet do they rise even a metre above the rubble and accumulated forest mulch. Visible is a 59-metre N-S stretch of perimeter wall with a preserved corner at either end, and a shorter W-E stretch of perimeter wall from the south-western corner. Along the inside of the visible wall are vague suggestions of two buildings including a corner tower and a cellar. The high walled northern part of the islet is divided from the southern part by a transversal dry moat. South of the moat on the lower part of the islet is a great pile of rubble. Before this week nobody knew what was under the rubble anywhere on the castle islet. Now we have borrowed a rowboat from Kimstad Parish Historical Society, opened four trenches in the ruins and started to get some answers.

Trench A seeks the north-east corner of the perimeter wall. I placed it here to investigate mortar and dressed stone pushed to the surface by a young oak. Katarina and Erik have found much brick and other rubble in the trench but no surviving masonry yet. Oddly, in addition to the recent animal bones commonly found in the topsoil, there are quite a lot of cremated bones here, species unknown, and a piece of vitrified brick. The topography suggests that the rubble we see may have fallen from masonry on a higher rock outcrop to the west of the trench.

In trench B, Andreas and Pikne are seeking the eastern stretch of the perimeter wall. Much brick rubble, animal bones and limestone slabs, a material we never encountered at Stensjö. We may have the wall in the trench but we do not know yet.

Ethan Aines and Ola Lindgren at work in trench C. Note that the wall they've found is the entire blocky chunk in front of them, not just the neat facing stones. Ethan Aines and Ola Lindgren at work in trench C. Note that the wall they've found is the entire blocky chunk in front of them, not just the neat facing stones.

Trench C investigates a W-E terrace forming the south edge of the high level northern part of the bailey. Ethan and Ola immediately came upon a thick and well-preserved W-E wall, apparently dividing a high inner bailey from a low outer one. And protruding from this wall north into the inner bailey, another equally thick wall planned and built in the same construction phase, and with façade plaster still adhering to its western face. Much wall plaster was also found in the surrounding rubble. We seem to be dealing with a major building built as part of the dividing wall and with a plastered façade. Ola is screening the two square metres of culture layer accessible inside the building and our trench, and has found abundant bones including well-preserved fish bones.

Ethan and I opened trench D on Wednesday afternoon and we haven't gone beneath the abundant topsoil yet. The trench is placed to investigate why the visible W-E stretch of perimeter wall ends right there. Is this a gate? The slope inside the wall is so steep that we have trouble climbing it. Having cleared the vegetation and mulch from the outer face of the W-E wall, I discovered something that might offer another explanation for how people entered the castle. Part of what looked like the exposed core of the W-E wall is in fact the core of a 2.2 metre wall or other structure extending south from it into the dry moat. Are we dealing with a drawbridge across the moat? Does the great rubble pile south of the moat represent a gate house that you had to pass through in order to cross the drawbridge and enter the castle's outer bailey? Landsjö castle is looking as a stronger and stronger fortification every day.

E on the plan marks the pit left by a fallen tree at the western end of the dry moat. If time permits we will remove and examine the disturbed rubble in the tree pit as a sort of instant test pit, a trick commonly used in Stone Age fieldwork.

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The castle may have belonged to the knight Holmger Folkesson (Ama), son of Folke jarl (earl) in the mid-thirteenth century. Folke jarl was probably, but not for certain, one of the sons of the earl Birger brorsa (according to Herr Doktor Wiki).
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By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 10 Jul 2014 #permalink

That is awesome Martin I had no idea medieval Sweden was so fortified. I expected maybe a walled enclosure with a tower or two. Can't wait to see what you find! I remember a Time Team with just such an upper and lower bailey separated by a cut across the ridge of a hill, I will try to find the episode. I suppose the intent was to build successive defensive positions but I can't help wondering if the owners didn't exactly trust the occupants of the lower bailey.

I am surprised that the fortification is so badly preserved, since I can't imagine many people coming to haul away stones once the site was abandoned. That tends to be the main threat to stone ruins in temperate climates.

Think winter, think ice, think the Post-Medieval manor house on the lake shore. And think terrace walls in the park.

I am surprised that the fortification is so badly preserved

A few hundred years of wild growing vegetation would be plenty enough to do the job. Where I live (New England) we have had not quite 200 years of forest growth since a number of marginal farms were abandoned after the Year Without a Summer, a.k.a. Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death. (Many of the survivors moved to Ohio and points west, where the soil is better and the growing season longer.) In some cases efforts were made to preserve the stone walls where rocks that had been cleared from the fields were piled up, and you can see those walls when you go hiking through the woods around here. Where no such effort was made, the walls are in only slightly better shape than the one Martin discusses in the post.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Jul 2014 #permalink

I suspect that the lack of goats or woodcutters keeping the trees down is the biggest difference from the parts of the world which I know better. The walls of a sturdy stone building can last centuries if there are no tree-roots and ice to split the stones and no neighbors using it as a quarry.

Until the invention of "blacktop" (asfalt, as we call it) winter ice provided the highest-quality roads available. Sledges instead of the crude carts. No need for suspention.
-Being on an island would have been troublesome on those weeks when the ice was too thin to carry a load, but also effectively preventing boat travel. When the need for a defensive position grew less urgent, this might have contributed to the abandonment of the island fortress.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 Jul 2014 #permalink

Hope the method gets improved. Currently the method's error bars are way wider than those of typological dating for copper alloy metalwork in Europe.

Can stones from The Landsjö Castle been used too build the lumber mill in the south part of the lake? (built around 1650, became strip down in 1905). Today only the stonefoundation remains.

By Lars Svensson (not verified) on 11 Jul 2014 #permalink

If the the sawmill belonged to the Landsjö estate, then I'd say it's almost certain that they used stone from the ruins for its foundation.

On the map over the survey on Landsjö estate from 1730 you can see the sawmill and the Castle on the islet is marked as some foundation.

By Lars Svensson (not verified) on 12 Jul 2014 #permalink

Re @ 13: -You know, this is right out of the film "Blade Runner". God is an android manufacturer who leaves his logo inside his creations. And we are all (including the fish, the trees and the eggplant) constructs -the sentient ones complete with synthetic memory implants!

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 13 Jul 2014 #permalink

As much as I hate to be pedantic (much), China is about the size of Europe, and the gender ratio varies pretty dramatically, even just by province. Actually, by city. Only 50% of the Chinese population are urbanised, and an excess of males is most useful in low tech rural areas - farming, mining, armed services.....Where you need brains rather than brawn, women come in pretty handy - yes, I know right at the upper tail of human intelligence, men outnumber women, just like they do at the lower tail, but for stuff that needs good above-average intelligence, but not actually physics-genius level, women outnumber men.

I need smart doctors and dentists (in fact, having a dentist who is so physically small she can fit her whole hand inside your mouth is a really good idea), but I don't use theoretical physicists much. Or, like, never. They also tend to be fairly dislikable people, best left in a room by themselves to theorise endlessly about string theory and blah blah blah...

Check the gender ratio in Western Australia some time. Why do you think I left the first chance I got?

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, I'd have some money on this little girl for the 2016 Olympics.

Remember the name: Genzebe Dibaba.

Actually, they shouldn't call her that, because she has an Amharic name - her name is just Genzebe. Her father's name is Dibaba. But they're obviously going to do it anyway, and I guess she doesn't mind tearing around the track wearing a top with her Dad's name on it.

She is the only athlete in history, male or female, to break 3 world records in 3 different events in 3 different countries in the space of 2 weeks. She did that in February this year - the indoor 1500 metres, 3000 metres and 2 miles, smashed them all, and she had to travel between countries in between races to do it.

One of her older sisters already has 3 Olympic gold medals, and another older sister has an Olympic silver medal, and Genzebe looks like being the most brilliant of the three.

It's not doping - she doesn't need it, she's from the Ethiopian highlands and was born with a genetic high altitude adaptation. Her blood can carry a lot more oxygen than most people's, because she was just born that way. It looks like it comes from archaic human introgression. The Tibetan high altitude adaptation comes from introgression from Denisovans. They haven't figured out where the adaptation in Ethiopian and Kenyan highlanders comes from yet, mostly because they have not identified a candidate archaic human lineage in Africa to get it from, whereas in the case of Tibetans they had already identified Denisovans. It looks like Sherpas (and possibly Ghurkas) have the same adaptation as Tibetans.

But whoever she got hers from, Genzebe's got heaps of it. I say good luck to her, I hope she wins a whole bag full of gold medals.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

Speaking of unpleasantly transformed humans, as opposed to delightfully and beautifully introgressed ones like Genzebe, I watched this last night:

If that thing is not a cult classic, it should be. The way Summer Glau pirouettes around killing the huge voracious horrible bad guys, it shows that she had ballet training.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

I should have shown the 3000m in Stockholm. Just think, guys, you could have been there. Genzebe was in a hurry to get her shoes off afterwards. I feel a bit the same way about shoes - an unpleasant necessity.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

John, I don't think the Chinese are aborting female fetuses for rational reasons. It's because of cultural tradition and the single-child policy. They just believe that boys are better. Few cultural traditions are particularly adaptive.

the gender ratio varies pretty dramatically

As it does in the US. If you are a woman in Alaska, "The odds are good but the goods are odd." I have heard that in some cities, notably New York, women outnumber men.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

Martin - Yes, it's a case of the single child policy playing into a cultural tradition and possibly making it worse. Someone reliable did some numbers and said the outcome would have been pretty much the same without the policy, and the government now openly admits the policy was (1) a mistake and (2) unnecessary. Whatever, I think the cultural tradition probably arises out what was originally a rational reason - that men needed sons to work the farm. Girls were not permitted to go to school. Men were the money earners and so sons were desirable. Girls were a burden. And the one child policy plays into that. In any case, the one child policy is definitely on its way out.

The gender disparity in northern India is actually a lot worse than even bad parts of China, I was shocked to discover, and there's no one child policy there. So, yeah, cultural tradition is the basic culprit.

Eric LMAO! Yeah, the goods are pretty odd in Western Australia too.

Anyway, no discrimination against female babies in the Ethiopian highlands because they turn out to be the big winners/income earners if they win the genetic lottery to be gifted runners. Genzebe's family has 6 daughters and 2 are Olymbic champions, and a third one is a world champion, and barring something bad, will also be an Olympic championl

Eric - Manila has an overwhelming surpluse in women, if you feel like going to a totally traffic grid-locked giant sprawling slum. In Melbourne and Sydney, women outnumber men, but basically because their economies are in recession and the men all leave to try to find work in mining.

So Shanghai has a normal gender balance,

You'd think that having such a low ratio of women would empower them - no, it doesn't, it commoditises them. Prostitution has become absolutely rampant in China - all those men who have no hope at all of ever finding a wife have to find some solace and human warmth and affection, or what passes for affection in exchange for money, .somewhere. I hear the same about northern India - both prostitution and gang rape are absolutely rampant. Sexual assault of women in Australia is, or should be, a source of national disgrace, but people seem resigned to it, as if it is normal. It is not normal. I live in a well policed population with more females than males, and sexual assault on females is definitely not the norm.

Off track, I coudn't help laughing at Genzebe after she won the 3000 in Stockholm, she crossed herself and looked skywards and gave the thumbs up to God. "Good job, Gob, you got that one right." No, it was the enhanced oxygen carrying capacity of her own blood that did the good job + endless hours of back-breaking training, or course.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

I'm not in a position to cast stones on the question of sexual assault: the US has big problems with that as well, and not just because of gender imbalance. Women outnumber men among university students, yet many universities are hotbeds of sexual assault. Excessive alcohol consumption (my European friends who have expressed opinions on the subject universally agree that the US approach is stoopid and counterproductive) is a factor, as is the sort of groupthink primarily (but not exclusively) associated with our Greek-letter fraternities. The existence of a female purity culture among certain religious types (which is also a factor in rural India) doesn't help, either. No, sexual assault should not be normal, but it happens too often in the US for me to easily say that it isn't, at least in this country: I've seen estimates that about one in four American females will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink

Those numbers sound about right. The Australian Union of Students have figures to show that one in six females is raped while attending university. Australia has an absolutely toxic alcohol culture, which is undoubtedly a factor. The police keep trying to tell the politicians that it is a very serious problem that needs to be dealt with, but they keep being ignored, because every politician knows that trying to curb binge drinking will just make them so unpopular they will be voted out at the next election, so it never gets addressed.

The Australian Union of Students submitted a report on sexual assault of female students in universities to the Prime Minister, who happened to be a female at the time, and she basically just paid lip service to it and then ignored it - everyone mumbled something about 'tightening campus security' and that was the end of it - effective response to absolutely outrageous, shocking and shameful findings was zero.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 14 Jul 2014 #permalink