Coin Challenges Written Record

A fun thing about historical archaeology, the archaeological study of areas and periods with abundant indigenous written documentation, is when the archaeology challenges the written record.

According to the patchily preserved historical sources, Landsjö hamlet was a seat of the high nobility in about 1280 but then became tenant farms no later than 1340. This means that the castle on Landsjö islet was probably in good defensible shape and inhabited in 1280 but not after 1340.

During last week's excavations we found a previously unknown strong wall delimiting the castle's high inner bailey, and a likewise strong and previously unknown south-east corner tower or building for this bailey. In one of the floor layers of this plaster-facaded structure, Ola Lindgren found a coin of the strålkransbrakteat type. Within an hour and thanks to portable internet, numismatist Frédéric Elfver told us that this coin was struck for King Magnus Eriksson in Stockholm between 1354 and 1363 – decades after the castle would seem to have been abandoned judging from the written record.

The coin says only that people visited the castle about 1360, not what they did there or what kind of shape the defences were in at the time. But Christian Lovén has suggested a scenario. At the time, Landsjö was owned by Bengt Philippusson of the Wolf family, who was on Albrekt of Mecklenburg's side in the civil war against King Magnus. Maybe Bengt made the castle islet available to Albrekt's troops?

I've also written about Landsjö in Swedish for the County Museum's blog.

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Very cool Martin, what a great little find! I'm sure there's plenty of precedent for garrisoning and refortifying old castles in times of trouble, the English certainly did so right up to the civil war. I'm intrigued by your plastered building, is that as unusual as it sounds for a medieval structure? I assume it's a real lime-based material and not just, say, daub?

The plaster is fine lime-based stuff and indicates an expensive aristocratic structure, which we already kind of knew that the castle is. (-;

Our geologists love it when they find something in the field that disagrees with the geological maps.

Reality trumps everything.

By John Massey (not verified) on 15 Jul 2014 #permalink

Cool I've been struggling to picture this when I remembered seeing photos of smooth white medieval churches in Sweden and the wonderfully fanciful frescoes inside. Do you have the dimensions of the "sju plus-formade järnbeslag"? Could they have been a portcullis given where you found them?

(OT, department of weird antiques)
Yesterday, Tuesday was the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama canal for traffic.
-And in less then a month we will "celebrate" the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of The Great War. It was initially a popular war. A war to die for. And twelwe million did just that.

There is so much undetonated ordnannce and unburied bones in the fields that it will keep battlefield archaeologists busy forever.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 16 Jul 2014 #permalink

Um ok a portcullis for the doggie door?

Kevin, this confirms that people were a lot smaller back then...

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 16 Jul 2014 #permalink

Undetonated old ordnance keeps engineers pretty busy too.

By John Massey (not verified) on 16 Jul 2014 #permalink

The mounts are only 4-5 cm across and made of sheet iron.

My first guess would be some sort of drainage system, but that's just speculation on my part. Allowing water to pool in your castle courtyard (as opposed to a cistern) strikes me as a bad idea. Given the state of plumbing in those days, I'd expect human waste to get mixed in to such a pool.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Jul 2014 #permalink

Birger @11: The site in question looks like it's a religious right site. For a bunch of people who claim so loudly to be Christian, I find their attitude about bearing false witness to be remarkably casual.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Jul 2014 #permalink

That piece was based on an article written by one Nury Vittachi, a gentleman of my occasional acquaintance - I am not sure what sort of 'science site' Science 2.0 is, although I suspect the side bar encouraging us to "Register Now To Get Your Own Column" is a bit of a clue, but Nury is a spiteful gossip columnist, writer of mediocre children's books, self-styled 'science writer' and legend in his own lunchtime...and a regular church attender. Perhaps he should have declared his own religious conviction in writing such a piece of rambling pseudo-scientific drivel.

This might seem like a non-sequitur, but 15 years ago I became fanatical about learning to play the game of tennis and read every book on the subject that I could find. The best book I read is a slim little volume that actually tells you very little of the biomechanics of how to hit a furry little ball with a tennis racquet, but it's a brilliant little book and worth reading for anyone, interested in tennis or not - it's called "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey, a tennis coach. It is the biggest selling book on learning to play tennis of all time, and many millions of copies have been sold.

In his mean article, Nury refers to the "inner monologue": "The imagined listener may be a spouse, it may be Jesus or Buddha or it may be no one in particular."

In his brilliant little best-selling book, Tim Gallwey has no doubt about this - he explains that when you hit a tennis ball badly, and your mind shouts "You idiot!", it is what he calls Self 1 talking to Self 2. The inner monologue is with your own self, and the main thesis of Tim's book is that the secret to learning how to play tennis is to silence Self 1, and let Self 2 do what it knows how to do.

If a tennis coach understands perfectly well what this internal one-way conversation is, why doesn't a proselytising charlatan posing as a self-styled science writer?

By John Feudal Overlord (not verified) on 20 Jul 2014 #permalink