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ARCHAEOLOGY

Archaeologists find medieval seal on Swedish island

During the construction of new pipelines, archaeologists uncovered an unusual find on a small island in central Sweden.

Archaeologists find medieval seal on Swedish island
The fragment of the stamp can be dated back to 1341. Photo: Acta Konserveringscentrum/TT

The group found a fragment of a medieval seal on Biskops Arnö, in between Uppsala and Stockholm.

“I was very lucky to make that discovery,” archaeologist Maria Lingström, one of the group of archaeologists which is linked to the Swedish History Museum, told The Local. “The shaft for the pipeline was just one metre wide and about ten metres deep by the time I examined it. Without a metal detector, I wouldn't have found it.”

She said the find was particularly unusual because of its connection to the church; the fragment is believed to have belonged to archbishop Petrus Philippi, who died in August 1341, according to archivists.

“Only about fifty seal stamps that belonged to the clergy have been found so far in Sweden,” said Lingström. “This particular stamp was personal and the archbishop carried it with him at all times.”

Seals were used instead of signatures during the Middle Ages in order to authenticate documents, as well as for sealing documents or packaged.

When Philippi died in 1341, the stamp was most likely destroyed right after his death. “That was done to prevent people from impersonating the bishop by using his seal,” Lingström explained.

However, she doesn't expect to come across any more discoveries on the site, as the seal was found during a small excavation in connection with pipeline construction, which has now been concluded.

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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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