Unexpected find during excavation in Hedensbyn

What kind of house foundations have been excavated in Hedensbyn? And how old are the boards that unexpectedly emerged from the clay?

Skellefteå 18 september 2023 15:29

What kind of house foundations have been excavated in Hedensbyn? And how old are the boards that unexpectedly emerged from the clay? 

–It's difficult to say what it is. It's frustrating, says archaeologist Susanne Sundström.

A few weeks ago, Norran was at E4 where archaeologists from the Skellefteå Museum were excavating a site used during the Bronze and Iron Ages. The reason for this excavation is that the Norrbotniabanan railway is planned to pass through this area. This time, they are excavating for two weeks in Hedensbyn, next to Järnvägsleden.

The archaeologists believe they have found foundations. Here, Anna Lindström is working on excavating them.

Sundström provides a tour of the three large trenches that have been excavated. She explains that there were around ten farms in this area in the 1500s, but it's unclear exactly where they were located.

Currently, they are examining a foundation they found last year. It turns out that the foundation stones were on top of another foundation layer deeper in the ground.

– We believe the higher foundation may have been a barn from the 1870s. It was a very large barn, says Sundström as she outlines the contours.

– We need to conduct some additional archival research to find out who owned it.

However, this year's focus is on the remains that they believe are older than the barn foundation.

– We took soil samples at the foundation last year and found grains dating from the 1500s to the 1700s. It shows that there was an older cultivation phase than the barn.

Susanne Sundström points out that fairly large stones have been used as foundation stones in the area.

The problem with topsoil is that much has been disturbed and destroyed when the land was cultivated. So far this year, they have found few finds that can be used to date the remains. However, during the last excavation, a grindstone and a three-legged cast-iron pot that could be medieval were found.

The area is situated on a ridge 13-14 meters above sea level. In medieval times, there was only water on the river side, but during parts of the Iron Age, the area was on an island. Parts of the land are still wet. In the clay, archaeologists have found something unusual.

– It's something very exciting, says Sundström as she points to a depression.

– We have found wood. The boards are in the clay. They must have sunk when it was wet here.

There are at least four boards, and in them, there are several metal nails. There are also wooden plugs.

It is unusual to find preserved wood during excavations in the Skellefteå area. Archaeologists often dig in sand and moraine where wood quickly deteriorates. In the oxygen-depleted environment of clay, it can be preserved.

Some metal nails and wooden pegs are present on one of the boards.

– It's frustrating because it's difficult to say what it is.

The age is difficult to determine, but burnt bones have been found next to one of the boards, which could indicate that it is a prehistoric find.

– Perhaps the bones can give a clue about the age of the boards. It could be the end of the Iron Age. We will also take samples of the wood and maybe dig a test pit between the boards to see if there is anything more.

In a third trench, Olof Östlund is removing topsoil from a feature with charred wood and red-burnt sand. They have found scorched stones and burnt bones there as well. These may also be prehistoric remains.

Susanne Sundström hopes that further excavation will make it clear what kind of site this is.

How did the medieval residents of Skellefteå live?

– They were probably multi-tasking farmers who fished and hunted seals. Medieval farms often consisted of simple timber houses, says Sundström.

She explains that there are significant knowledge gaps regarding settlements during the Iron Age and medieval periods in this area. Few farms have been excavated.

The preliminary investigation could lead to a more thorough final investigation.

Fact box

Medieval times last from 1050 AD to 1500 AD. 

It's called 'historical' time because there are written sources from that period.

The Iron Age spans from 500 BC to 1050 AD.

Prehistoric times refer to a period before there were written sources.

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