Florida students hunt for history in Swedish topsoil
26 September 2012
“Uppåkra is fantastic! We’ve found so much just in the top layer of soil – a bronze pendant, an axe, a flint scraper and loads of animal bones. I want to come back next summer. I love it here!”
Stephanie Feola from the University of Florida is enthusiastic. She and eight other American students have been digging at the Iron Age settlement of Uppåkra, near Lund, as part of a four-week course in practical archaeology.
“The students have learnt to draw plans of the site, dig, sift earth and clean finds”, explains their leader, Professor Florian Curta.
His contact with Lund began at an international conference where he met Professor of Historical Archaeology Mats Roslund from Lund University. Since then, Professor of Archaeology Lars Larsson, who has been very involved in the Uppåkra excavations, has also visited the University of Florida to hold lectures.
This is not the first time University of Florida students have gone abroad to dig. The archaeology summer course focuses on the medieval period (5th to 15th century) and is therefore always given in Europe. Excavations in the US would only produce finds from Native American settlements, whereas in Europe there is a lot more to choose from.
Last year, the students on the course worked in a peat bog in Ireland, next year they will dig in a graveyard in Lithuania, and this year they are digging in a part of Uppåkra that is believed to have been a “production site”.
“We have found quite a lot of antler and bone fragments that were part of combs. We therefore believe that they may have manufactured combs here. We can’t say anything for sure yet; this autumn’s students will have to carry on the work the American students have started”, says excavation leader Bengt Söderberg.
While the Florida students have been digging at the possible production site, a summer course with Swedish students has worked in a trench a bit further north that may have been a kitchen area connected to the large house that has previously been mapped. At some points the American and Swedish students have also swapped around in order to get to know one another and the different excavation sites.
The American students pay for their travel, the time in Sweden including several study visits, and the course itself. The total cost is 3 700 dollars plus flights.
“But it is well worth the money. I want to be an archaeologist and therefore I have to learn the scientific methods, which we do here. Plus it is so beautiful in Uppåkra!” says Ashley Mayfield.
An extra enjoyment for the American students is all the visitors who come to Uppåkra for guided tours.
“We never encounter that kind of interest from the public at digs in the US”, explains Florian Curta.
Planned archaeology centre in Uppåkra
Both Lund University and Region Skåne are interested in realising the plans for Uppåkra Archaeology Centre, a major science centre adjacent to the excavations in Uppåkra. The centre will have space for all the various aspects of archaeology – research, find management, conservation and communication – and will be aimed at both the public and specialists.
A feasibility study for the project, which was completed at the start of the year, estimated the number of visitors at around 100 000 a year. The study also estimated the cost of construction at SEK 235 million and the operating costs (minus revenue) at around SEK 30 million a year.
It is hoped that part of the centre will be ready in time for the University’s 350th anniversary celebrations in 2017.
Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sven Strömqvist has been commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor to draw up a proposal together with the Historical Museum and the Department of Archaeology for an agreement on the divisions of responsibility for the legal and financial aspects of the project. Work is also being carried out in parallel to find additional stakeholders who can contribute to the financing.
Uppåkra Archaeology Centre could be seen as a southerly continuation of the “knowledge highway” that links the centre of Lund with the research facilities under construction on the outskirts of the city to the north-east. In this way, the knowledge highway would point both towards technology and the future and towards history and the past.
“There has been talk that with MAX IV and ESS the University could veer entirely towards engineering, science and medicine. Uppåkra Archaeology Centre can highlight the strength and importance of the humanities at LU”, says Vice-Chancellor Per Eriksson.
Text: Ingela BjörckThis text was first published in the Lund University Magazine - LUM.
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