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ARCHAEOLOGY

Hundreds of 17th century cannonballs unearthed in Stockholm

Archaeologists digging in Stockholm's Slussen area have stumbled on a unique find that has left them scratching their heads: hundreds of cannonballs from the 17th century. But who left them there and why?

Hundreds of 17th century cannonballs unearthed in Stockholm
The area where the cannonballs were found. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

A proposal to redevelop Stockholm's Slussen junction was approved in 2013, and since then archaeologists have been excavating the area as the construction work continues. It is the largest such excavation in Sweden and tells the story of a time when the area was the hub of Stockholm's iron trade.

Last month they uncovered more than 200 cannonballs in what used to be a moat.

“This is a unique find. I don't know, off the top of my head, of any other place in Sweden where so many cannonballs have been found in one place and there has definitely not been a similar find in Stockholm before,” Michel Carlsson, archaeologist at Arkeologikonsult, told The Local on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake


Some of the cannonballs found in November. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

They believe the cannonballs were dumped on the site intentionally, either during the demilitarization of Slussen's fortifications in the early 17th century (when the military defences moved as the city grew) or when the city's facilities for weighing iron were moved to the site from the Old Town in the 1660s.

“One question we are considering and have not yet found the answer to is why the cannonballs were not saved – if nothing else than for the sake of the metal value,” said Carlsson.

WATCH: New video of shipwrecks in Stockholm's archipelago


More than 200 cannonballs have so far been found. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

The cannonballs that have so far been found vary in size and originally weighed around 0.85 to 8.5 kilo. Grenades, hand grenades and parts of at least seven cannon were also found on the site in November.

In the 1640s Sweden exported around 11,000 tonnes of wrought iron annually, increasing to 40,000 tonnes in the 1740s. Other finds last month include shards of German ceramics from the 14th century, remains of a well-known arch bridge built in the mid 18th-century and more wrought iron objects. 


One of the cannons found on the site. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

Exciting finds in central Stockholm are nothing new. During previous digging work at Slussen archaeologists have found a 16th century kitchen complete with tobacco pipes, coins, Viking era pearls, and much more. 

Construction work at Slussen is expected to be finished in 2025. The existing junction was built in 1935, but there have been various locks on the site since the 1600s, raising and lowering the water level to help transport boats between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. The word sluss means 'lock' in Swedish.

READ ALSO: Swedish king's 'forgotten' warship found in central Stockholm


Remains of an arch bridge that used to run east of the locks in the mid-18th century. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

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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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