Jump to content
Home / Heritage Services / Archeology / Ancient remains

Ancient remains

Graves, pits, and house foundations

In Dalarna, there are more than 32 000 known ancient remains. They are the traces of human activity in the landscape for 10 000 years. The ancient remains can consist of graves, hunting pits, huts, house foundations, charcoal burning platforms, summer farms with mountain pasture and much much more.

The responsibility for preserving the remains of previous generations is shared by all and the cultural heritage is protected by the Historic Environment Act.

All ancient monuments that we know of are registered in Fornsök, the database for archaeological sites and monuments that is maintained by the Swedish National Heritage Board. In Fornsök there are, among other things, descriptions, and in some cases even photos, of the remains and a map showing location. Fornsök is public and accessible to the public on the internet through the website of the Swedish National Heritage Board.

There are still many ancient remains in forests and on land that have not yet been registered. If you have found something that you think may be ancient remains, we at Dalarna's museum and the County Administrative Board of Dalarna want to know. Then we can document it and make sure that it is registered in Fornsök. It can be an important link to the understanding of our history and lead to new knowledge.

What I think is one of the coolest things about being an archaeologist is that you can get lots of information from almost nothing. This happened when we dug a burial mound in the area of Sör Romme in Borlänge. When it was built, it was a large and pompous burial mound visible from far across the plain. It is believed that there were as many as about 60 burial mounds in Stora Tuna. Today, there is virtually none left. Above ground none is visible, it is just ordinary fields. If you start digging in the ground, at first glance there is also nothing left. But if you remove the topsoil, you can suddenly see that the soil below has a slightly different color than the soil around it. Every little impact you make in the ground leaves an indelible mark. In this case, a ditch had been dug around the burial mound.
The soil that filled the ditch looked a little different than the untouched ground around it. After we took samples and analyzed them, we were able to find out that the burial mound was built sometime around the 10th century. Small, tiny pieces of bone in the ground were found to come from humans as well as from cattle or horses. Someone had first been buried in the large burial mound. In retrospect, until the 13th century, other people had been buried in the ditch around. Some form of ritual had also been performed, e.g. where animals were allowed to accompany them to the grave. Probably because the dead would have something to eat on the "other side". It could be seen that there was an opening in the ditch into the burial mound. Here we can only speculate what it was used for. It is interesting that Sweden was actually considered to be Christian in the 13th century. However, we can state that old pagan customs and practices lingered longer in Dalarna. All this, and more, we were told even though we found almost nothing! You can read more about this in

Sör Romme, Dalarna Museum Archaeological Report 2010: 2.

Charlotta Helgesson, translation by Olof Håkansson

The remains of a burial mound in Romme, where the slightly darker shade of the ring dith surrounding the burial mound was the only trace left. Pictured is the delineated outlines sketched into the sand by the archaeologists.

Some of the coolest artifacts that I have ever found was discovered on a hot summers day at Islingby, Borlänge. I was excavating a larger site and the clouds was getting ever darker in the sky. It was a real thunderstorm in the works. I sped up the excavation and decided to set some seemingly insignificant pieces of burnt clay aside. I would bag them later anyway. Instead, I focused on the bits of scrap metal that was coming out of the soil layers. All of a sudden the sky opened, the rain poured down and we had to run to find shelter. When I returned to "my pit" the rain had washed the burnt clay that I set aside. Just look at the beautiful floral patterns revealed by the sudden rainfall. It was pieces of casting molds for costume details and other metal fittings that I had discovered. The foundry with the casting molds and the scrap metal is dated to the 1500th century. Read more about the excavations in Islingby in  Dalarna Museum Archaeological Report 2009: 1.

Anna Lögdqvist, Dalarnas Museum, translation by Olof Håkansson

Casting molds from Islingby, Borlänge

Among the most interesting things I have been involved in documenting or even finding are fine stone tools from the Stone Age. When I find a stone tool from the Stone Age, I feel a very strong and special feeling because the person who last held that tool before me was probably a person who lived in the Stone Age, maybe 5000 years ago. An example is a very nice and large spoon-shaped scraper that I found when we at extremely low tide in Lake Balungen took the opportunity to search for and document previously not known Stone Age settlements. When I walked on a long beach between two Stone Age settlements, I found the nice scraper below a small bog. Probably the scraper was lying in the bog and fell down on to the beach when the tidal wave gradually dug itself into the bog and exposed the scraper. We do not know why the 11 cm long scraper of a very special, rare and fine-grained light orange-brown rock ended up in the bog, but thoughts and questions line up. Why is the scraper here all alone a good distance from the Stone Age settlements? Has it been laid in the bog as a sacrifice? If so, was any humans sacrificed at the same time? Or has it just been dropped?

Maria Lannerbro Norell, archaeologist at Dalarna Museum, translation by Olof Håkansson

The biggest experience I have had as an archaeologist was probably when I excavated a burial ground in Kråkberg north of Mora in 1990. It is nothing new and rather trivial with graves I think, but my feeling then was that time itself was pressed together and that I could almost strike a conversation with the 900-year-old residents of Kråkberg. In the finegrained sand 0,6 m down, where seven buried individuals in simple wooden coffins and sweeps. They were nicely adorned in clothing and provided with the personal items that are important for the journey to the next life. At the same time as the burials were very decayed, they were strangely well-preserved and untouched. With a steady hand, the burials that were now only a few centimeters thick were excavated. In these few centimeters there was still plenty remaining of the coffins, skeletons, textiles, knives, belt buckles, rings, pearl necklaces, firesteel, etc. Several of the graves were removed as whole samples so that they could be examined in the lab under the best possible circumstances. The use of X-rays at Mora Hospital resulted in fantastic images of objects that was completely corroded, but where a fine powder remained in its original position. Among other things, one female had a fine silver crucifix on the chest, threaded in a braided necklace of silver thread, a clear symbol of the new faith.

Fredrik Sandberg, translation by Olof Håkansson

Among the most interesting things I have been involved in documenting are the carvings on rocks and trees in the fäbod -areas, the summer pasture in the mountains. The carvings have been made by the young women that herded the cattle in the woods around the summer farms. For the most part, they have carved their initials and the date, but also human figures, cross signs, checkered patterns, pentagrams, churches, tents with crosses and occasionally a text or even shorter stories in Dalic runes or the latin alphabet. A story on a rock face is, for example, about gaining health with the help of God Almighty that resides in the mountain. On a tree a young woman has in the year 1848 carved ”Vi har det bra som fan” ("We are fine as hell") and on another tree someone has carved ”Det är lett”, a dialectal expression that means that it is boring.

Maria Lannerbro Norell, archaeologist at Dalarna Museum, translation by Olof Håkansson

Left An ornate sign of the cross, carved on to the rock face, Skommarhällan in Åppelbo parish.
Right Summer pasture carvings on trees, Halgonberget in Rättvik parish.

I think it was very exciting when we found summer pasture carvings on boulders while surveyinging in the project ”Skog & historia” in Malung municipality in 1997. It was extra fun considering that many of the carvings pictured people with detailed costume. Read more about this in Skogens historier del XNUMX. The stories of the forest part 7.

Greger Bennström, archaeologist at Dalarna Museum, translation by Olof Håkansson

Sketch of a female figure on the ancient monument RAÄ no. 493: 1 in Lima parish.

Among the most interesting things I have been involved in registering in the antiquities register are large boulders, so-called ”liggande hönor”, resting hens, which have been used as boundary markings and for magical purposes. There are still some old stories and traditions around some laying hens.

Maria Lannerbro Norell, archaeologist at Dalarna Museum, translation by Olof Håkansson

The coolest construction that I have had the privilege to excavate was a stone-paved gutter which belonged to a farm dated to the 1600-1700th century. The farm had been built on all sides and along the house walls there were gutters to drain rainwater. The excavation took place a cold and snowy winter day in February when we did an archaeological survey in the Falan quarter, before the Falan shopping mall was to be built in the city of Falun.

Marianne Kullander, translation by Olof Håkansson

Newsletters

When you subscribe to our newsletter, you agree that we store your e-mail address.
Your email address will only be used to send out newsletters.

Name

E-mail

Leave the following fields blank

X
Skip to content