My students and me, busy excavating at Skamby, Sweden

IMG_20141218_211413Over nine years ago, in the summer of 2005, I co-directed excavations with Swedish archaeologist and blog guru Dr Martin Rundkvist at Skamby, Kuddby, Östergötland. We spent 8 weeks surveying and carefully excavating one of ten the oval stone-settings surrounding a boat-shaped depression on a ridge at the far east of the province, not far from inlets from the Baltic Sea. It proved, as we expected, to be the remains of a very poorly preserved Viking-Age boat-grave.

We published a note on the copper alloy casting from our excavations in the Swedish journal Fornvännen (Rundkvist et al. 2007) followed by the excavation report in the journal Medieval Archaeology in 2008 (Rundkvist & Williams 2008). Subsequently, we wrote an article on the landscape context of the cemetery for the journal Landscapes in 2010 (Williams et al. 2010) while Martin incorporated the fieldwork from Skamby into a broader regional synthesis of first millennium AD central places in 2011 (Rundkvist 2011). The archive report is available here. Martin has moved on to other subjects, but his exciting new work at the other end of the province, at Aska, is phenomenal and must be read about here.

Martin and me excavating in the boat-grave. Note the amber gaming pieces we found amidships.

Recently I was invited to contribute to the Festschrift of Swedish archaeologist Elisabeth Arwill-Nordbladh.  While I was only familiar with a fraction of her work and I have only met her twice and ever-so-briefly, this was an exciting opportunity for me I couldn’t decline. Moreover, it seemed like a logical context in which to air a few ideas and thoughts regarding the material composition and character of the mortuary monument we investigated.

The book is fine indeed and I am proud to be associated with this lavishly produced tome. My paper? Judge it for yourself. I focus on the actual and implied movements and transformations that are materialised in the composition of the boat-grave and its stone setting. I suggest ways in which these frozen movements and the pace of the monument’s decay might have influenced its commemorative significance in relation to the other boat-graves from the same location.

I have uploaded it and it is now freely available for you to read here.


Rundkvist, M., Stilborg, O. and Williams H. 2007. Copper alloy casting at Skamby in Kuddby parish, Östergötland, Fornvännen 102, 279-281.

Rundkvist, M. & Williams, H. 2008. A Viking boat grave with gaming pieces excavated at Skamby, Östergötland, Sweden, Medieval Archaeology 52: 69-102. http://works.bepress.com/howard_williams/4/

Williams, H., Rundkvist, M. & Danielsson, A. 2010. The landscape of a Swedish boat-grave cemetery, Landscapes 11(1): 1-24. http://chesterrep.openrepository.com/cdr/handle/10034/311915

Williams, H. 2014. Memory through monuments: movement and temporality in Skamby’s boat graves, in H. Alexandersson, A. Andreeff, and A. Bünz (eds) Med hjärta och hjärna. En vänbok till professor Elisabeth Arwill-Nordbladh, GOTARC Series A, Gothenburg Archaeological Studies, vol. 5, Göteborg: Göteborgs Universitet, Institutionen för historiska studier, pp. 397-414. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/337528