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ARCHEOLOGY

Cyclist saves ancient rune stone from being crushed

A passing cyclist has saved a thousand-year-old rune stone from being crushed into tiny pieces, after spotting it by the side of a cycle path being built near Sweden’s Lake Mälaren.

Cyclist saves ancient rune stone from being crushed
An entirely different runestone. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
The rune stone was discovered when a digger hit something hard while clearing the way for the cycle path last Thursday, but the construction team didn’t see anything special about it. So they began to make plans to solve the “problem” by crushing the stone. 
 
But on Wednesday, Erik Björkli  realized what the stone was as he was passing by on his bike, and alerted the construction workers. Just over an hour later, Urban Mattsson, the head of conservation and heritage at Södermanland County Council, was at the scene to identify the stone. 
 
“It’s extremely exciting. The find of the year!” Magnus Källström, senior researcher at the Swedish National Heritage Board, told the local Eskilstunakuriren newspaper when shown pictures. 
 
“I recognize that one from the literature. It has very special ornamental art and looks well preserved,” he added.
 
Källström said the stone had been recorded back in 1668 by Johan Peringskiöld, an early antiquarian, but had since been lost. 
 
It bears the text: “INGULV AND VISÄTE RAISED THIS STONE FOR BUGGE AND SIGSTEN. GOD HELP THEIR SOULS”, and an unusual cross design with an interlocking braid pattern.
 
Rune stones, standing stones bearing inscriptions written in runic script, were raised in Sweden between the fourth century the 12th century, mostly to commemorate those who had died. 
 
Mattson said the county council now planned to assess whether to carry out an archeological examination on the site, or whether to move the stone. 
 
Källström said the stone seemed to be in the same place, then called Tidö gärde, as it had been when recorded in the 17th century. 
 
“It should absolutely be raised up again, and ideally near the place where it stood previously,” he said.
 
Cyclist Erik Björklid meanwhile said he hoped that his discovery wouldn’t disturb the cycle path project. 
 
“I hope that there isn’t a whole load of hassle because of all this,” he said. “But this is part of our cultural heritage after all.” 
 
 

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BEER

Divers find 500-year-old Danish beer barrels in Swedish wreck

Divers excavating the wreck of a medieval warship off the coast of Sweden have found barrels they believe may hold traces of 500-year-old Danish beer.

Divers find 500-year-old Danish beer barrels in Swedish wreck
The beer barrels had been branded with the letter 'A'. Photo: Brett Seymour
The Gribshunden, or Griffen, the flagship of King John of Denmark, sank in 1495 off the coast of Ronneby, southeastern Sweden, while on the way for talks with Swedish separatist forces int he city of Kalmar. 
 
“It's what we would expect but I still think it's quite fun because it gives us an insight to the life on board,” Johan Rönnby, an archeologist from Södertörn University outside Stockholm, told The Local. 
 
“We haven't taken any samples, so we can't 100 percent say that it is beer, but it is most likely that it would be beer on a ship, as water was not that healthy to drink.” 
 
The suspected beer barrels are marked with the letter 'A' and fitted with two stoppers on the lid, which would have enabled easy pouring. 
 
Rönnby's colleague Brendan Foley, a researcher from Lund University, said that the team were currently taking samples from the barrels to determine their contents. 
 
“We're taking sediment samples now and hoping we're going to find DNA evidence of hops,” he said. 
 
“What we're doing is getting a look at not just what the men on the ship were drinking but what King John was taking to Kalmar to impress Sten Sture the Elder.” 
 
Sten Sture the Elder had led Swedish separatist forces to victory against royal unionist forces at the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471, after which he had become effective ruler of Sweden. 
 
The excavation of the Gribshunden, which is being part-funded by the Lund-based Crafoord Foundation, involves 40 researchers from 10 countries. 
 
The researchers announced the discovery with a press release on Friday. 
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