A day with Macedonian archaeology – “Kokolov Rid” (VIDEO)

This short documentary is an contribution for the celebration of the international “Day of Archaeology” 2013 by Museum of city of Vinica, R. Macedonia.

The archaeological site of Kokolov Rid at the Vinichka Krshla Village is a complex site.
It is 3 km to the north-east of the City of Vinica, at the left side of Vinica — Vinichka Krshla Village road, several hundred meters to the east of the archaeological site — necropolis Krshlanski Gumenja, at a small lengthened plate, above the Sushica River.


Julijana Ivanova, Blagica Stojanova and Cone Krstevski – Museum of city of Vinica

Old Uppsala and Beyond

Kerstin Westrin and Jonas Wikborg, assist projectleader, excavating a pit house at Old Uppsala. Olle Heimer is looking through the contents of the floor layer. Photo: Asa M Larsson

Rescue excavations – the curse and boon of our profession. We may bleed for the heritage sites that are lost forever, but without the expansion of modern society we would get very little chance to peek into prehistory on a grand scale. This summer there are a lot of archaeologists crawling around Gamla (Old) Uppsala in Sweden, the idyllic suburb north of present day Uppsala, where the impressive great burial mounds of some undisclosed Iron Age VIPs still stand.

Urbanisation came late to this part of Northern Europe, but Uppsala was probably one of the first places in Sweden where this happened, sometime in the Early Middle Ages (or Late Iron Age as the period is still called here in Scandinavia). Exactly when – and how – is a matter of fierce debate, so you can imagine the gleeful joy with which archaeologists here greeted the fact that the railroad drawn straight through Gamla Uppsala needed to be expanded. It’s a massive project involving thousands of square meters of Iron Age and Medieval settlement sites as well as an Iron Age cemetery. It is also one of the most protected heritage areas in Sweden, so the project is a collaborative effort involving our own firm SAU, the Uppland County Museum, as well as the archaeological unit of the National Heritage Board. The more the merrier!

Sofia Prata, osteologist at SAU, is excavating a burial urn with a cremation from the Viking Age cemetery at Old Uppsala. Photo: Asa M Larsson

Not that I get to stick my fingers into the rich, dark culture layers with amulet rings and bear claw clasps, stuck behind a desk as I am doing administrative work as usual. But I manage to sneek out now and then and visit my colleagues in the field. So far the SAU team have found parts of a smithy and several pit houses, as well as long houses from the Vendel and Viking periods (c. 550-750 CE and 750-1050 CE respectively). The cremation cemetery that was identified in a field during last year’s test excavations has turned out to be much larger and more well preserved that we had expected – which is fun but, as we all know, also a bit of a headache for the County Museum that oversees the excavation. The osteologists from SAU will have their hands full, analysing all the cremated human and animal bones.

Celebrating with ice coffee and cherries – ’cause we earned it!

Still, contrary to popular opinion not all archaeologists are out in the field during the summer. Some  have been chained to their desk to finish up a report on sites in that we excavated a few years ago. These Bronze and Early Iron Age sites and burials in Northeastern Uppland were established during a perod where the region changed from archipleago, to coast, to inland due to the shore displacement going on since the end of the Ice Age. Today we were frantically double and triple checking the text and illustrations before handing in the manuscript to the Uppsala County Board, who will decide if it can be published.

Afterwards we celebrated. On Monday we continue with other projects at hand, or in a few cases, actually take a vacation…

If you find yourselves in the vicinity of Uppsala this summer and autumn, be sure to visit us – we have guided tours in English as well.

A Day in the Life of Tuzusai

Tuzusai is an Iron Age site in southeastern Kazakhstan that dates from 400 BC to AD 100.   Our 2012 field season began in early June.  Now one month into our excavations with local workers, we have discovered a house platform and its associated living surface.  In the two weeks a series of smashed storage vessels, jars and cooking vessels have been uncovered on the mud brick platform.  This is the first intact mud brick dwelling on the upper levels found, since large portions of the site have been destroyed by ploughing and re-surfacing, some which took place during the 1960s with the construction of the Big Almatinsky Canal.  Twelve burial kurgans (Iron Age burial mounds) were destroyed.


Another typical day: a bit of everything

My day started as the clock struck midnight and an email conversation started mid-evening continued into the early hours.

I had been searching for the ‘footprint’ of the well-known author of Historia Ecclesiae and many other worthy tomes, known to us as Eusebius of Caesarea. I treat ancient texts as artefacts, an approach that seems to puzzle many historians. Though a number of scholars, some quite eminent, have questioned the veracity, or accuracy of this Eusebius (the name is quite common in antiquity, which is why this one is usually distinguished with of Caesarea or Pamphili), my opening approach is more simple: did he exist?

Having checked the literature and texts back as far as I could, I still could find no ‘footprint’, so asked a number of libraries and specialists. At around midnight, one responded and with three potential leads, the most promising being a possible discovery of a papyrus in Egypt. Undeterred by night, I began immediately to try and track it down.

The morning sun awoke me and again, there were emails from my transatlantic and antipodean colleagues, with papers for me to study and questions to answer. After maybe two hours, I was outside eating breakfast, with laptop for company. Today’s the day and I have to think about what to write here.

I missed a teleconference in order to get to a local dig, where I had been asked to take a look at a cavity which had opened unexpectedly. I did look and also felt around underground, as far as my arm would reach. Big and apparently empty. I advised to be careful not to break the surface, step in and twist an ankle. It’s being examined now.

Though my particular interest is panhellenism in classical antiquity, which draws my attention to sites from the Indus (Greco-India) to the Nile, I am also involved with local sites.

The Deputy Major of Dover recently unveiled the newly finished Wolverton Case at the Astor College for the Arts Dover. This unique Anglo-Saxon display case will serve as an educational tool in the community for schools in the Dover District. The site of the newly discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery lies at the northeastern end of the 7km long valley between Folkestone and Dover and is situated above the Nailbourne River at the point where the river flows into Kearsney Abbey then onwards via the river Dour through Dover.

A few years ago, I surveyed a hill near Wolverton and since then, taken part in excavations there and further surveying. It’s become quite a big, community project and also a training site. We also have metal detectorists from a local club working with us. Summer weekends see quite a lot of people there, of all ages. There are Bronze Age barrows, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and masses of worked flints. I like the site for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because it offers a continuous history of the island people I love most.

Now the evening approaches, I am working on cartography, making a map. I am trying to identify the many headwaters of the Euphrates and see if (and how) they relate to baptising cults.

Kanzfra Sattar is one of only five Mandaean bishops left. BBC News.

Kanzfra Sattar is one of only five Mandaean bishops left. BBC News.

One of the better known today is known as the Mandaeans:

Mandaeans appear to have settled in northern Mesopotamia, but the religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide, and until the 2003 Iraq war, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country (as have many other Iraqis) because of the turmoil of the war and terrorism. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000. Most Mandaean Iraqis have sought refuge in Iran with the fellow Mandaeans there. Others have moved to northern Iraq. There has been a much smaller influx into Syria and Jordan, with smaller populations in Sweden, Australia, the United States, and other Western countries.

Yazidis on the mountain of Sinjar, Iraq/Syrian border, 1920s.

Another sect is the Yazidi, members of a Kurdish religion with ancient Indo-Iranian roots, primarily a Kurdish-speaking people living in the Mosul region of northern Iraq, with additional communities in Transcaucasia, Armenia, Turkey, and Syria in decline since the 1990s – their members emigrating to Europe, especially to Germany. Yazdanism blends elements of Mithraism, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian religious traditions, Christianity and Islam. Their principal holy site is in Lalish, northeast of Mosul. (Wikipedia)

Those whose place of origin lies within easy reach of the Yazidi religious center Lalish (Pers. Lāleš, in present-day Iraq) tend to use the translation “baptism” for the ceremony of mor kirin, which in fact shows similarities to Christian baptism. This ceremony should ideally take place at Lalish, since water from the holy Kaniya Spî (White Spring) or the only slightly less holy Zimzim spring must be used. (Initiation in Yazidism)

To me, archaeology is not divorced from the past. We today are a part of our own cultural layer, just one more atop many earlier.

A day of commercial archaeology in York.


I arrive on site at West Offices in York after a 10 minute walk.  This is probably the closest site I have ever worked on to my home, and I am enjoying the commute.

We have just finished a 7 week excavation of a Roman bath-house and parts of the civilian settlement beneath one of the platforms on the site which is a former railway station.  A photoblog of the excavation is available here.

A lot of the finds, samples and tools from the excavation are still on site and need moving before the builders appropriate or throw them away.  Three of the four barrows we had have already gone missing.  So the first job of the day is loading finds into the car.  Then we have to transfer some soil samples from rubble sacks into sample tubs.

When the car is as full as it can get, Tim heads off to the office and I decend to the cellar.