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Swede’s spring cleaning yields antique bombshell

A bombshell believed to be from the 1800s brought an abrupt and frightening end to plans to carry out some spring cleaning on Monday in the cellar of the 16th-century city wall in Kalmar in southern Sweden.

Swede's spring cleaning yields antique bombshell

“I put a small shovel into a pile of dirt and heard a distinct ‘clang’,” a still somewhat shaken Fredrik Palmqvist told The Local.

Palmqvist chairs a local Kalmar cultural association, Turbine, which uses the cavernous, dungeon-like space in the bowels of the historic landmark as a meeting space.

On Monday, a few members of the group had gathered to finally clear away a sizeable pile of dirt and debris near the room’s front entrance. As Palmqvist bent down to clear away the pile, his dustpan hit something metalic

“I got down on my hands and knees and began scooping away the dirt. At first I thought it was a food canister from the military,” he explained.

But as Palmqvist further examined the rusty object, which measured about 25 centimetres in length with a diameter of 10-12 centimetres, he was soon overcome with fear, realizing the cylinder-like object was likely a bombshell.

“It came as quite a shock. I picked it up in my hands and ran out of the room,” he said.

Palmqvist placed the shell in a small alcove in the wall itself.

“I figured that was the safest thing to do. I then told the others to go home and I called the police,” he explained.

He also snapped a picture of the object and sent it to the police, who in turn alerted the bomb squad in Malmö.

Police arrived on the scene and evacuated the area as a precaution while they investigated the find.

“The experts in the bomb squad were 100 percent certain it was some sort of military ordinance. But because it was so rusty, they weren’t sure how old it was,” Palmqvist explained.

“But one said it might be from the 1800s.”

According to Palmqvist, the room his group now uses for meetings was once used by the Swedish military to store ammunition.

“We’ve seen old pictures indicating it was used to house ammunition during wartime. We’ve previously found rifle shell casings on the floor,” he said.

The bomb squad eventually secured the bombshell, giving the area the all clear around 1am on Tuesday morning.

However, it remains unclear whether or not the shell still possessed the explosive power it once had.

“They don’t know if it was live, but that older ordinance is especially dangerous because it is so unpredictable,” said Palmqvist.

“It’s frightening to think what could have happened. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing historical find and our group very much hopes to get the shell back.”

David Landes

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Why is Sweden called Sweden? The Local answers Google’s questions

Why is Sweden called Sweden? Why is Sweden so depressing? Why is Sweden so rich?  In a new series of articles, The Local answers some of the most common questions that appear when you type "Why is Sweden..." into the Google search engine.  

Why is Sweden called Sweden? The Local answers Google's questions
Why is Sweden actually called Sweden? Let's find out. Photo: Google screenshot

The short answer to “why is Sweden called Sweden?” is that it’s not. It’s called Sverige

When The Local asked Henrik Williams, a Professor of Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University, he also gave the question a short answer: “Because it’s inhabited by Swedes.” 

We can trace some form of the name back to at least the 13th century, when it was called Swearike in Old Swedish. That translates to “the kingdom of the Swear”.

Two thousand years ago, some of the people living in what is now known as Sweden were called Svear or Suiones, depending on which language you spoke and on how you spelled things (spelling varied greatly). 

The Roman historian Tacitus gives the first known description of the Svear in a book written in the year 93 CE, Germania

Everything comes down to this word, Svear, the name of the people. It means ‘we ourselves’. The Svear lived in Uppland just north of where Stockholm is now, until about the 11th century when they started expanding their territory. 

“It’s very common that people call themselves, either ‘we ourselves’ or ‘the people’” said Professor Williams. 

“We are ‘the humans’ and everybody else is something else. Everyone else is ‘them'”.

Of course, nobody uses the word in that way now, but it still forms the basis of the word Sweden.

The 8th century epic poem Beowulf gives the earliest known recorded version of the word Sweoland, land of the Swear

But at that time, there was no Sweden. Instead, the land was occupied by little kingdoms of Swedes and Goths (in present-day Götaland) and warring tribes of Vikings.

It’s unclear when the King of the Swear started referring to himself as the king of a country called Sweden, but it was probably around the time the country adopted Christianity in the 11th century. 

“Sweden” only came into regular use after 1750, when it replaced “Swedeland” in English. But in Scotland, “Sweden” had been used since the beginning of the modern era.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary in the early 17th century, people would use Sweden as the name of the people, and Swedeland as the name of the country. 

The first attested use of ‘Sweden’ was in a Scottish timber accounting log in 1503, which refers to “Sweden boards.” 

Most countries went from the Old Norse word Svíþjóð (which is still used to describe Sweden in Icelandic today) and turned it into something in their own languages, like the Old English Swíoríce, the Middle Dutch Zweden and High German Schweden

But it’s not called Sweden everywhere. 

In Finnish, Sweden is Ruotsi, in Estonian it’s Rootsi, and in Northern Sami Ruoŧŧa.

This comes from the root-word Rod, as in modern day Roslagen the coastal part of Uppland. It means rowing, or people who row. And because Finland was invaded by people from Roslagen, that’s how Finns referred to them. 

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