2014 Castle Excavation Reports

Last year I headed four weeks of excavations at two previously unexplored castle ruin sites near the Swedish city of Norrköping: Landsjö in Kimstad and Stensö in Östra Husby. Finds and written sources suggest that both were built and inhabited in the 13th and 14th centuries. All known owners were members or close relatives of the powerful Ama family. Now Ethan Aines and I have finished the archive reports, available here on ScienceBlogs [Landsjö and Stensö] and on Archive.org. Rudolf Gustavsson's osteological reports (in Swedish) are included. Comments and questions are most welcome! We will resume fieldwork five weeks from now.

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My excavations this summer will target the ruins of two Medieval castles near Norrköping. Christian Lovén and I have selected these two because unusually, both have curtain walls (Sw. ringmur) but do not seem to have belonged to the Crown. The High Middle Ages in Sweden are poorly documented in…
Myself, Ethan Aines and Mats G. Eriksson are proud to present our report on last year’s fieldwork at Stensö Castle, Östra Husby parish, Östergötland. Lots of goodies there, and with an added meaty report on the bones by Rudolf Gustavsson! It was a very fruitful two weeks at the site, during which…
Myself, Ethan Aines and Mats G. Eriksson are proud to present our report on last year's fieldwork at Landsjö Castle, Kimstad parish, Östergötland. Lots of goodies there! Construction on the castle seems to have begun between 1250 and 1275, and the site was abandoned halfway through an extension …
Things are coming together with the post-excavation work for last summer's castle investigations so I'm putting some stuff on-line here. I've submitted a paper detailing the main results to a proceedings volume for the Castella Maris Baltici symposium in Lodz back in May. There are no illustrations…

So it was unusual in this region for private landholders to own castles? I thought in most of Europe castles belonged to nobility of various levels.

By Charles P Redwine (not verified) on 18 May 2015 #permalink

In Sweden, masonry castles were built from about 1150 to 1500. All the big ones belonged to the Crown or the episcopal sees. Some noble families built small masonry castles of their own, others just made do with a moat and a palisade around their country seat.

Östergötland was one of the kingdom's core provinces. Only two castles there that belonged to the nobility have masonry perimeter walls. We're digging those two sites. They're not huge. Stensö measures 45 m across and Landsjö 60 m from end to end.

All westerners have grown up with the image of Neuschwanstein in their minds. Encountering a bona fide middle-age fortress is bound to be disappointing the first time.
-The tiny wossname nobility-owned castle in Scania is more representative. Maybe they shot the final scene of that Bergman film there?
Anyway, ability to defend a castle was way more important than aestethics. And sanitation must have been a bitch. Cram a hundred defenders into those structuresd and you get disease spreading like wildfire.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 May 2015 #permalink

Though all could be defended, most were never attacked. Living in a defensible structure was a courtly ideal.

It still is, really.

A friend of mine in Perth has a beautiful old house in the worst possible position - in a wealthy suburb that is smack up against a very poor suburb. In one year alone, his house was broken into and things stolen no less than 3 times.

No matter what he does, he can't make that place impregnable. The only possible solution is to get a big dog and keep it inside, and the dog will just tear the place up.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 May 2015 #permalink

Although don't forget that some castles were not attacked because they were strong enough to make potential attackers go do something else (whether sacking the nunnery down the road, or continuing their feud in the courts). A building did not have to be a hyper-efficient, single-minded defensive structure to be much safer than a house in the open with big openings at ground level.

By Sean Manning (not verified) on 19 May 2015 #permalink

The simple answer is that sky-rocketing inner city land prices leads to, if not gentrification, at least suburbs being occupied by increasingly more wealthy people. But Perth is a bit of a special case due to a few factors which require more than a few words to explain. This is not Denmark, it's the Wild West. I might expand more later, but here's one little puzzler for you - the Chinese population of Perth is lower now than it was in 1926. You can't say that about many places worth living in.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 May 2015 #permalink

Avoiding slum-ification and allowing middle class people to live in easy reach of the city centre (while not having to pay extreme rents) both require social engineering, which is anathema to the Thatcher-Reagan fundies.
I sometimes think old London Town, with its slums and gallows and palaces is their ideal.
USA has fortified urbclaves for the well-to-do patrolled by rent-a-cops. The rest are apparently free to live in some Mad Max post-apocalyptic ruins.
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Re . fortresses, the Cappadocians had the right idea. They dug their homes right into the soft rock, pre-dating Bond villains by two millennia.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

The mechanisms active in urban decay and renewal seem complicated. Sweden has this huge legal apparatus in place to allow poor people to live in the city centres. The US has no such apparatus and their city centres tend to become slums full of poor people.

Yes, those fortified enclaves in America are a pretty scary idea. They have the same thing in Manila only more so - walled villages within the greater urban area, guarded by armed guards at the gates.

My wife and I once considered a move to Manila in the 1990s when I was offered a job there, but one visit to those walled places and the prospect of having to live like that, with our daughter having to grow up behind guarded walls, was enough to put us off the idea completely. Never regretted that decision; Manila has since gone from bad to awful. It's one of life's real puzzles - how do you take basically nice people like Filipinos and produce an urban slum nightmare like Manila? Well, many decades of totally corrupt government plus rampant uncontrolled population growth are obviously a good start.

During one holiday visit, before our daughter was born, we wanted to go sight-seeing one day, so we went outside and hailed this taxi, and basically asked the driver where we should go. He said how about the war cemetery (he obviously didn't know we weren't Americans), so anyway we said OK, so he took us to the war cemetery - as far as the eye could see, row after endless row of white crosses, interspersed here and there with the occasional Star of David. My wife remarked on the stars, and the taxi driver said "They were the officers."

Then my wife said she wanted to go to see a very famous Catholic cathedral in a very old part of Manila, so the taxi driver drove us there. I said "OK, thanks, you can leave us here." The taxi driver said "No. I will wait here for you. You go and look at the cathedral, then come straight back here and get back in my taxi. You will be safe inside the cathedral, but it is not safe for you to walk around by yourselves in this area." After a bit of a look around, I got his point.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

Rampant uncontrolled population growth + uneducated lumpenproletariat = easily controlled peons.
During the brief fling with "liberation theology", some within the Catholic Church wanted to change things for the better, but John Paul II sent a certain Ratzinger (later Pope Maledict) to stomp out the abominable heresy.
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And re feudalism, they still have a de facto version of it in many developing countries (but no noblesse oblige).

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

Gated compounds are normal in many countries, most of them in the Third World. They are commonplace in Brazil, for example. The reason is the same as why John's friend in Perth has problems with burglars: middle- to upper-class people living in close proximity to very poor people. You have to be very careful about walking around the neighborhood in such places. At least in Brazil, the fears that lead to people living in such places are rational. Crime, especially violent crime, is a real problem there. The Americans who are walling themselves off in such communities have similar fears, but in the US those fears are not so rational. Crime rates in the US have been falling for about 25 years.

As for why so many US cities abandoned their city centers to poor people, racism is a major factor, as with so much about US society. After World War II there was a concerted policy to get people to buy houses in the suburbs that were growing around the cities--but to buy these houses you generally had to borrow money, and many banks had a policy of lending money only to people who were predominantly of recent European ancestry. Many of these municipalities (and not just in the South) also had laws prohibiting non-whites from remaining within city limits at night (Google "sunset towns" for the depressing story)--those laws were enforced as recently as the 1960s (when federal civil rights laws overturned them), and some of them are still technically on the books. Add in the effects of lead poisoning, due to a combination of old housing stock (lead-based paint was commonly used until it was banned in the 1970s) and heavy traffic (tetraethyllead was a common anti-knock compound in gasoline; it was phased out as catalytic converters, which were mandated as a fuel economy measure in 1974 and could not handle leaded gasoline, became nearly universal). As Kevin Drum has noted, there is convincing evidence that the upswing in crime in the US (and other countries) in the 1960s-1980s was due to the neurological damage of lead poisoning.

Many US cities have been reversing the trend, including Boston, New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Seattle. It takes some serious scratch to live in the center of any of these cities, and the poorer/more dangerous neighborhoods are often in the inner ring suburbs (often the same ones that were developed in the 1940s and 1950s) which are not well connected to the public transport network. In the 1980s Cambridge, especially east of Harvard Square, was a place you wouldn't want to walk around alone at night. Today, it has one of the highest average house prices of any US municipality, and you have to get further from downtown Boston (particularly Roxbury, inland Dorchester, Chelsea, Everett, and Revere) to find the sketchier neighborhoods. Other US cities have similar stories. Not all US urban areas are as bad as Detroit.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

American here. I've never lived in a gated community, nor do I live in a Mad Max wasteland, thankyouverymuch. (Unless by "Mad Max wasteland" you mean a nice neighborhood in a nice city.)

Are there problems? Absolutely. But I think that there is a lot more middle ground than just the extremes of gated Stepford assimilation and the worst part of Baltimore on a bad day.

(I was born in Baltimore, but never really lived in the city. Generally, it's a nice, interesting place with good food. Got some good historical stuff, for the US.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

You could not get me to go back to Rio de Janeiro if you tried to drag me there with a team of wild horses. That is easily the most dangerous city I have ever been to in my life.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

So anyway, totally randomly off-topic, my friend Kumi, the fabulously unheard of Japanese rock guitarist (unheard of outside of Japan, that is) was out for her usual early morning 10 km run this morning, and she was running along the bank of a river. And she came upon a Coypu (aka Nutria) ( Myocastor coypus) on the bank of the river. In Kyoto.

I can find no reference to them being introduced specifically to Japan for fur farming, but they must have been.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 May 2015 #permalink

We haven't got nutrias in Sweden, but we do have minks and raccoon dogs that have escaped from fur farms. In fact, the mink population used to get boosted further by young animal-rights activists in the 90s. They would release fur-farm animals into the wild.

She posted a picture, but frankly, if you've seen one Coypu you're seen 'em all, so here's Kumi on the subject of gorillas. I hope she doesn't bump into any of them on one of her early morning runs - she's probably try to pat it or hug it or something.


By John Massey (not verified) on 21 May 2015 #permalink

OT: John Nash of "A Beautiful Mind" died in a car crash this weekend . He was 86.

OT: Sweden won the Eurovision song contest. Good melody, good singer but basically very weak competition.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 25 May 2015 #permalink

People in Hong Kong have invented new technology that is now on Mars, but you'll never get to hear about it. The guy is a dentist in his day job, and a space freak as his hobby, so he invented some miniature drills for sampling the minerals in rocks on Mars, and they used it.

Actually, per capita, Hongkies are amazingly inventive - we come up with new stuff all the time, and a lot of our systems are best-in-the-world, but most don't believe it until they come up against it. Because everyone knows that Hong Kong is (a) tiny and (b) a third world sweat shop. They haven't updated their priors since the 1950s. It's not their fault - of all of the global press coverage of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, it was obvious that the large majority of writers were (a) not here and (b) had never been here. Those that were here were desperate, because there was nothing to write about - one flag came down the flagpole, another flag went up the flagpole, and that was it, business as usual. No PLA tanks rumbling down Nathan Road. You have to know where to go to look to even get a glimpse of a PLA soldier in Hong Kong, unless they are having one of their kids' days, when they good humouredly entertain the progeny of the proletariat.

So why aren't Mainlanders more creative - I think one simple answer is that they have no effective system for protection of intellectual property rights. The other simple answer is that there is no point in reinventing the wheel - why come up with the world's best fighter plane entirely from your own designs, when you can steal a lot of the technology from the Russians and Americans? (And Swedes, if it comes to that.)

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 May 2015 #permalink

The interesing news coming from Hong Kong maybe gets lumped together with China, since most people nowadays know China is a high-tech country (at least in the big cities).
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OT. Memes that need debunking.
As bad memes go, this one should be nuked from orbit. It is the only way to make sure*
*Kudos to anyone who recognises the film reference.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 May 2015 #permalink

John Massey: I know that drill! A friend of mine worked with it for a project in college. They were doing some testing work for a Mars rover. Very cool tech.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 28 May 2015 #permalink

It's a small world, JT.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 May 2015 #permalink

Thanks John. I'll have to check the model on-line before I buy my next computer. I suppose the users of small linux distros are too few for manufacturers to care about them as potential customers. A UEFI bug bricked a Samsung netbook for me in '13, and I never got my money back.

Yes, it was the horror story of your bricked Samsung that prompted me to post that to you when I saw it.

I've got your back, bro'.

Me, I'm just an Apple fan boy.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 May 2015 #permalink

John Massey @ 27, Haha yes, and the religo-fundies still think we are the Evil Ones.
BTW, here are some brave culture warriors in action.
Three Fox hosts are taking a "manhood test" by changing a tire on a car to show off their manliness
[info for newbies: Fox is the most ultra-right-wing fundie crazoid TV in several dimensions of the multiverse].
"Fox and Friends…Wow. Just Wow." http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2015/05/28/fox-and-friends-wow-j…

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 May 2015 #permalink

The whole idea that one should turn to a Navy SEAL to teach you how to be a man…WTF???? And how the £$€ did I get here on a thread about castle excavations?
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The most dangerous modern cities may be in South Africa. This is not a coincidence. During Apartheid, the "civil society" that is the first barrier against crime and norm violations was deliberately shattered by forced relocations.
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Skeptic alert!!!! "The fake cancer cure conference the 'healers' tried to keep secret" http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11628065/The-fake-cancer-cure-co…
Those scammers are truly lower than whale shit.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 May 2015 #permalink

(OT) Martin, I have found biological relic, a lost tribe of H. Habilis!!!
A site called “Biblical Gender Roles” contains a terrible list of 8 steps to “confront your wife’s sexual refusal.”
"How should you as a husband handle it when your wife directly refuses to have sex without a valid reason? Is there anything a Christian husband can do about this?"
(Hint: A valid reason would be “I don’t want to, asshole!” )
There are non-religious men like this, but they have to look further for justifications.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 31 May 2015 #permalink

A question for sinologists: Are there many ancient fortifications left in the inner pats of China, or did they concentrate on external projects like the Great Wall?

The old city wall of Xi'an still existed as of 2006. But Xi'an was a dynastic capital (the Tang, IIRC, but I'd have to look it up to be sure), so the Emperors would have wanted to take extra precautions there. The Forbidden City in Beijing also has a wall, presumably for similar reasons. I can't speak of other walled cities, as Beijing and Xi'an are the only Chinese cities I have visited. And of course neither Hong Kong nor Shanghai, both founded in the 19th century, would have that kind of fortification. Most likely several walls have been removed in modern times for economic development; the Xi'an city wall is a tourist attraction.

The Great Wall was not always effective at stopping barbarian invasions. It stopped most direct frontal assaults, but other methods for getting past the wall, such as bribing the guards, sometimes worked. And at least one dynasty (the Ming) was founded by the leader of a barbarian invasion. There are some similarities to the line of fortifications constructed along the Franco-German border to the specifications of one M. Maginot.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Jun 2015 #permalink