Posted by: martespangen | September 7, 2014

EAA coming up!

Runepinne Offerholmen

In a couple of days I am off to Istanbul, Turkey, to attend EAA, or more specifically; the 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists.

Together with Ester Oras, Tõnno Jonuks, Martti Veldi and Tiina Äikäs, I am hosting the session “T06S016 Sacred Nature: Site Biographies, Research, Ethics” on Thursday 11 Sep, chairing part of the session. We are really pleased to have a full-day program of interesting lectures with a wide chronological and geographical scope.

I will also be presenting a paper on behalf of Tiina Äikäs and myself, “New users and changing traditions – (re)defining Sami offering sites”. In the paper we explore what factors impact the creation and redefinition of Sami offering sites through time, and how we as archaeologists handle new users and uses when trying to define such sites. See complete abstract below. The full program for the conference can be downloaded here.

Abstract: “New users and changing traditions – (re)defining Sami offering sites”
Tiina Äikäs and Marte Spangen
Thursday 11 Sep 2014, 17.00-17.20

Some Sámi offering sites have been used for over a thousand years. During this time the offering traditions have changed and new people have started using the places. Contemporary archaeological finds give evidence of both continuing traditions and new meanings attached to these sites, as well as to sites that were probably not originally used for rituals in the Sámi ethnic religion. In some cases the authenticty of the place seems to lie in the stories and current beliefs more than in a historical continuity or any specifically sacred aspects of the topography or nature it is situated in. Today´s new users include e.g. local (Sámi) people, tourists, and neo-pagans. This paper discusses what informs these users both about what places are offering sites and about how they should relate to them. What roles do scholarly tradition, heritage tourism, and internal cultural have in (re)defining Sámi offering sites and similarly what roles do “appropriate” rituals have in ascribing meaning to particular places? How do we mediate wishes for multivocality with our professional opinions when it comes to defining sacredness?

Posted by: martespangen | September 3, 2014

The very last fieldwork

There is always more to see and more to do in archaeology, but in a project with deadlines and limited funding, the fieldwork part has to come to an end sometime. For this project it ended last week after a one and a half week tour of Varanger and of 31 sites of various kinds, some new and some familiar. Some were localities I did not have time to see when I was last here in 2012, while some were stone structures I chose to revisit to double check the information I had recorded before, especially concerning the areas and other cultural monuments around the structures themselves.

In addition I visited some monuments that have been interpreted as traps, meat caches and falcon catching sites, to compare the features of these with the circular offering sites I study. In the search for alternative explanations, these functions have been some of the possibilities I have explored. Now it remains to evaluate the data more systematically before drawing any conclusions.

Honna Havas, museum leader of the East Sámi Museum in Neiden, joined me for the survey of an alleged trap in Munkefjord.

Honna Havas, museum leader of the East Sámi Museum in Neiden, joined me for the survey of an alleged trap structure in Munkefjord.

As I have hinted at in previous posts, there is quite a lot of variation within the category labelled “Sámi circular offering sites”. One particularly interesting feature in some structures is that they are not really circular at all; rather they have an angular inner shape, usually forming a pentagon or hexagon. Hence, one main objective this year was to take aerial photos with a photo pole in order to document the frequency of this particular feature in various structures.

Photos were taken with a telescope photo pole, rented from arkeologiutstyr.no. Photo: H. Havas.

Photos were taken with a telescope photo pole, rented from arkeologiutstyr.no. Photo: H. Havas.

The photos will be processed in a photogrammetry program, which automatically pieces them together to give an overview, and which can also produce 3D models showing heights and the sloping of the terrain, etc. This is an incredibly timesaving and accurate practical and analytical tool that can replace old-fashioned drawing and measuring.

A lot of people have been involved this year too, both in the actual fieldwork and helping me out with housing, transport, information, technical equipment and more, which I really appreciate. And, of course, good company makes the fieldwork and travelling all the more enjoyable, so a big thank you to Honna, Turid, Nils, Mia, Paul, Synnøve, Tom and Are, and all the rest of you!

Paul Smuk helped locate and investigate a structure I had not previously seen by Biekkanoaivi, Nesseby. A few finds of wood and iron pieces are possibly remains from quite recent use of the structure for storing hay.

Paul Smuk helped locate and investigate a structure I had not previously seen by Biekkanoaivi, Nesseby. A few finds of wood and iron pieces are possibly remains from quite recent use of the structure for storing hay.

Posted by: martespangen | August 17, 2014

Back in the field

For the last 10 months or so I have been contemplating some new theories about the initial meaning and function of the stone structures I study. Considering new hypotheses usually means paying attention to slightly different aspects of, and features in, the material you work with, so even if I have seen about 80-90 sites so far, I am now on a new tour in Troms and Finnmark to see additional sites, as well as some familiar sites, with new eyes.

Try find… well, anything, in this kind of woods - it is almost impossible...

Try to find… well, anything, in these woods – it is almost impossible…

Among the localities I visited this week, was a stone structure suggested to be an offering site by Migan on Reinøya, an island north of Tromsø. The site had not been mapped before and I was uncertain where to find it, so I contacted historian Håvard Dahl Bratrein. He told me that he and an archaeologist from Tromsø Museum had first discovered the site from their car down on the road by the sea in the 1970s – back then this was an open landscape. Now, however, the island is less inhabited and few farms are left. The terrain is no longer used for grazing and it has become completely overgrown. Cultural remains are certainly not visible from a distance, or even close up, so it was very helpful that Håvard joined me for a day´s fieldwork. Apart from sharing some of his detailed knowledge about the history and archaeology of the area, he actually managed to find the structure again, despite the dense shrubbery that has grown up during the last 35 years or so. 

Håvard Dahl Bratrein found the site again after 35 years despite the changed landscape.

Håvard Dahl Bratrein found the site again after 35 years, despite the changed landscape.

Having seen the site, I do not think it has the same characteristics as the “typical” circular offering sites in Finnmark, which for instance have quite pronounced stone walls, but it was definitely an intriguing place, featuring a split boulder and a cleared area between this and two cairns, all placed on a distinct elevation in the terrain. Being so overgrown, it would take deturfing of the whole area to get a clear idea of the shape and purpose of the site. This is not within my time frame, economic frame or current permissions, but maybe it could be a project for the future?

After visiting a few more sites in Troms, I am now heading for the stone structures in Varanger – more reports to follow!

Posted by: martespangen | May 29, 2014

The legacy of Ernst Manker

The records of the Sami archive at the Nordiska Museet are topographically sorted

The records of the Sami archive at the Nordiska Museet are topographically sorted

The past week has offered more archive work, this time at the Nordiska Museet here in Stockholm and more specifically in the so-called Sami archive. This archive was first organized by, and contains a large number of records collected by, the ethnographer Ernst Manker (1893-1972), who dedicated most of his academic life to study Sami culture and history.

Among the many scientific works Manker published is the comprehensive book Lapparnas heliga ställen (“The holy places of the Sami”, 1957), which lists several hundred Sami offering sites in Sweden, but also includes some localities in Norway. In a short description of the varying morphology of the offering sites he mentions the circular offering sites in northern Norway and suggests that the presence of stone circles at 6-8 different sites in Sweden could indicate that the same phenomenon occurred here.

Manker had been to see at least one of the large “classical” circular offering sites in Finnmark, but the stone circles he describes in the Swedish sites are not very similar; they are mostly much smaller and consist of a single row of stones or just single stones in a circular pattern. The exception is his mention of a large stone circle by Bjellåvatn in Saltdal, Norway, known from an 1889 written source, but as the eager reader will know, I have not been able to confirm this information despite searching for the stone cirle in the given area last summer.

One purpose of my work in the Sami archive is to see if there is any additional information about the offering sites with stone circles in Sweden. Another more generally interesting aspect of the work is that Manker had a long-lasting and close cooperation with the Tromsø ethnographer Ørnulv Vorren, who´s field notes and collected finds I have depended heavily on in the present project. Vorren was highly inspired by the efforts of Manker, for instance he modeled the exhibition Samekulturen (“The Sami Culture”) at Tromsø Museum on the exhibition of Sami culture Manker had curated for the Nordiska Museet.

Hence the work of Manker is relevant to understand the research Vorren did as well. I was very happy to learn that curator dr. Eva Silvén at the Nordiska Museet, who was so kind as to take the time to introduce me to the Sami archive last week, is currently finalizing an immensely interesting research project exactly about the archive and collection work of Manker. Eva especially focuses on how the contemporary concepts of racial biology, the exploitation of natural resources in northern Sweden and the growing Sami liberation movement affected the work Manker did, as well as how this has affected the presentation of the Sami in the Nordiska Museet, and, in turn, the impact this has had on the public view on the Sami in Sweden. Her resulting book will be published later this year: Friktion. Ernst Manker, Nordiska museet och det samiska kulturarvet (“Friction. Ernst Manker, the Nordic Museum and the Sami cultural heritage”). I am really looking forward to reading it!

Posted by: martespangen | May 7, 2014

Half-time

The course in Rome included a daytrip to see the traditional transhumance roads in Lazio, here almost visible as a ford in the middle of the picture...

The course in Rome included a daytrip to see the traditional transhumance roads in Lazio, here (almost) visible as a ford in the middle of the picture…

As we entered May and the spring season, I also entered the last half of my time as a PhD student here at Stockholm University. Perhaps symptomatically, there has not been much time for blogging during the last five months or so. Instead I have written and submitted an article concerning my new theories about the “circular offering sites” that will hopefully be published within the year. I have also been involved in organizing the XIV Nordic Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting here in Stockholm, a conference running over five days, 22-25 April, with about 200 participants and 19 sessions. I would like to extend a somewhat belated thank you to all the participants in the session I arranged together with Tiina Äikäs and Anna-Kaisa Salmi on the topic of «Sámi archaeology and postcolonial theory». The aim was to discuss and rethink the use of this theoretical complex in Sami archaeology. With eight interesting papers and a total of about three hours of debate, I think we can call it a success.

In addition I have been busy covering some of the 60 study points (one year of full-time studies) PhD students in archaeology here at Stockholm University are expected to complete during our four years of project employment. This goal is partly achieved through PhD courses offered by the Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology: “Dialogues with the Past”. Hence I spent last week at the Swedish Institute in Rome, discussing “Outland use and upland landscapes”, with 16 other PhD students and five lecturers from various European countries. A big thank you to all of them for a very interesting and inspiring course.

My half-time milestone will be celebrated in about two weeks with the mandatory half-time seminar where I will present my results so far and what I plan to do in the second half of the project to the rest of the department. My plans include, among other things, a short additional survey in Varanger this summer, some more archive studies, place name studies, more GIS analyses, writing some articles and not least writing the monograph that will be the final result of this project. It’s a lot, but I am still optimistic, and, perhaps more importantly for the chance of completing the project sometime during 2016, I still think doing this work is great fun. In short, I look forward to the next half!

The first peer reviewed article related to this project is now out in the latest issue of Fennoscandia Archaeologica (2013). The article sums up the reasons why I have started to doubt that the so-called Sámi circular offering sites were originally built and used as offering sites at all. The reasons for this doubt include a lack of older written and ethnographic sources, certain features relating to the stone structures themselves and their distribution, and that the few local traditions recorded may very well be of a younger date and possibly inspired by a scolarly hypothesis from the mid-19th century.

For copyright reasons I am not allowed to make the full-length article available online for another year, but Fennoscandia Archaeologica can be bought here: http://www.sarks.fi/fa/fa_sale.html, or, presumably, borrowed at a library close to you. Feedback will be much appreciated!

Posted by: martespangen | December 23, 2013

Call for papers to session at EAA in Istanbul 2014

Together with four fellow organizers I would like to invite you all to submit paper abstracts to our session “Sacred nature: site biographies, research, ethics” at the EAA conference (European Association of Archaeologists 20th meeting) in Istanbul September 10-14 2014. The session concerns the following issues:

Throughout history natural and manmade spaces have been used as religious sites in various contexts. Some of these sites have been (re)used in different religious, cultural and political frameworks, both in the past and today, while others show a very short-term utilization period. This session aims at discussing the use of sacred places and their biographies in both contemporary and past societies. The specific questions of interest include defining, using, studying and protecting sacred places. What makes a place sacred? To what extent is the sacredness of a place related to natural topographical features or created through use and reuse of the site? What is the perception of natural sacred places in contemporary and past society, and how do these perceptions change in time? What kind of sources and methods can be employed for studying sacred places? How can we approach the dynamics of sacred sites through archaeological material? Are there specific ethical issues that should be considered in the studies of sacred places? We welcome both theoretical and methodological contributions throughout the world.

For more information, see also session T06S016 here: https://www.eaa2014istanbul.org/sayfa/144.

Paper abstracts are to be sent in via a submission form that you can find here: https://www.eaa2014istanbul.org/submission_form. Questions about our session may be directed to our session leader Ester Oras: eo271@cam.ac.uk.

If you find this interesting I hope you will submit your paper abstract before the deadline January 27 2014. In the meantime I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

The next Nordic TAG (Nordic Theoretical Archaeology Group) will be held at Stockholm University! The sessions have now been announced and the deadline for entering papers is Dec 15. The theme for the conference this time is “Archaeology as a source of theory”.

Tiina Äikäs, Anna-Kaisa Salmi and I have proposed a session on “Sámi archaeology and postcolonial theory”. We hope for many interesting contribution discussing the use and value of postcolonial theory in Sámi archaeology and how Sámi archaeology may contribute to developing theory. Send your abstract to marte.spangen@ark.su.se. For more information and complete session abstract, see: http://www.archaeology.su.se/english/about-us/events/conferences/xiv-nordic-tag-2014

Welcome to Stockholm in April 2014!

Posted by: martespangen | October 20, 2013

Workshop week ahead

Doing Sámi archaeology includes relating to a variety of ethical issues concerning inter alia the historical repression of the Sámi and Sámi culture, and their current rights to govern their own cultural heritage.

These are complex matters that need to be constantly considered and discussed, which is really best done in dialogue with others. Consequently I was very happy to learn that the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University will host an international workshop on Oct 24-26 called “Archaeologies of “Us and “Them” – debating the ethics and politics of ethnicity and indigeneity in archaeology and heritage discourse“.

Due to a cancellation, I have now been asked to step in on Friday Oct 25 and present a paper about the current debate on Sámi archaeology and the concept of indegeneity in Norway. I look forward to this opportunity to present the issues I am concerned with to a broad international panel of participants, and not least to learn more about the current debates in other parts of the world.

As a “warm-up” I have been lucky enough to get to participate in another highly interesting international workshop on Wednesday Oct 23: “Heritage and Critical Postcolonialism“, hosted by the Swedish History Museum. In other words, I have a good week ahead with lots of possibilities to discuss politics, ethics, and theories in Sámi archaeology!

Posted by: martespangen | September 8, 2013

The wall – digging by Gálggojávri

Deep concentration in the trench by Gálggojávri. From left: Camilla Olofsson, Anna-Kaisa Salmi, and Anni-Helena Routsala. Photo: Ingvild Larsen

Deep concentration in the trench by Gálggojávri. From left: Camilla Olofsson, Anna-Kaisa Salmi, and Anni-Helena Routsala. Photo: Ingvild Larsen

I had planned two investigations this year, and the second took place in Storfjord, Troms, this week. We had permission to excavate a small area in a Sámi circular offering site that Ørnulv Vorren has described, but apparently not excavated, considering his notes. However, referring to a hole in the mound in the middle of the stone structure, he did note that the site had been disturbed before he came to see it.

Perhaps the disturbance left Vorren no hope of finding anything, but drawing on the experience from Karasjok last week, my team arrived at the site with high expectations.

Unfortunately the finds were limited to very recent objects that gave little insight into the original function of the structure, although they were interesting enough in terms of how it has been used in later times. On the other hand, the investigation of the wall and the mound inside it gave important information about both their constructions and possible functions.

After an intense week of lifting stones, digging, and documenting a trench through the southern part of the stone wall, the first conclusion is that whoever built it had a pretty good idea of what they were doing. Little seems left to coincidence. There was a foundation of sand and smaller stones, layers of stones in various sizes, and obviously a thought-through lay-out of the structure and a clear idea of how such a wall should be built and supported.

I think both the monumental size of the structure and the elaborate building technique indicate a very specific purpose. The question is which… Theories flew high among my enthusiastic crew members, archaeologists Anni-Helena Routsala, Anna-Kaisa Salmi, Ingvild Larsen, and Camilla Olofsson, and some of the thoughts that came along may just be of great importance – to the extent that I hesitate to reveal them until I have had a chance to investigate them further.

Again I have to thank all my amazing helpers for their hard work, good ideas and excellent company! I could not have done it without you!

Photopole shoot of the amazing crew, from left Anni-Helena Routsala, Ingvild Larsen, Camilla Olofsson, Marte Spangen, and Anna-Kaisa Salmi

Photo pole shoot of the amazing crew, from left Anni-Helena Routsala, Ingvild Larsen, Camilla Olofsson, myself, and Anna-Kaisa Salmi

 

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