Who are we?
We are a team of archaeologists at a county museum in the southeastern part of Sweden, and we are excavating a unique site: the Sandby borg ringfort. This site has proven to be the scene of a brutal Iron Age massacre. So far, we've uncovered numerous bodies of slain victims as well as several amazing gold and silver objects.
What are we creating?
The archaeology at Sandby borg ringfort is mind-blowing and sensational. With our excavations, we are creating knowledge about a forgotten historical trauma, unveiling the secrets of the Sandby borg massacre. We will share our discoveries with You through a beautifully illustrated publication with texts in English and Swedish, presenting for the first time the full excavation of a house with the bodies of its inhabitants still in it. This truly is archaeology at its very best, with gold, silver and astonishing discoveries. But it is also an authentic, real crime scene where the silence of the unburied victims is deafening. Can we finally, after more than 1500 years, give a voice to this horrible and tragical historical trauma? Let's do that, together!
If You still want to know more after watching our video and reading our description below, You should check out our project homepage, this film clip made by Lund University a couple of years ago, and follow us on Facebook! And of course, You should back us!
Hidden treasures of silver and gold
Sandby borg is an Iron Age ringfort, located in southeast Sweden on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea. As one of sixteen similar forts on the island, it was probably built in 5th century AD at a time of extensive foreign contacts and a prosperous but also turbulent society. Its massive walls are built from local limestone, as are the walls of the 53 houses located within the fort. Due to extensive stone quarrying in historical times, the houses are not visible above ground today.
Not much was known archaeologically about Sandby borg until 2010, when a metal detector survey of the fort was conducted. The results were beyond all expectations. In five different houses in the central block of the fort, exclusive and unique treasures of 5th century jewellery were found containing large gilded silver brooches together with numerous beads, bell pendants and finger rings. The artefacts in the caches bear witness of extreme wealth and long distance relations. The exclusive beads and pendants have been imported from eastern and southern Europe, including the Roman Empire.
The scene of an Iron Age massacre
Our excavations at the fort have resulted not only in stunning pieces of top quality migration period finds, but also completely mind-blowing and unique evidence of an Iron Age crime scene. Idyllic as it might seem, Sandby borg turned out to be the site of a mass murder, where the inhabitants of the fort have been slain and left lying where they fell. We do not yet know how many were killed, but we believe it could be hundreds. While digging in houses with the jewellery caches, we found skeletons lying on the floor. So far less than 3% of the site has been excavated, but we have already located the remains of more than 10 people. At least one of them is a small child.
In House 40, where several slain victims have been found, a Roman solidus gold coin was uncovered. This find can potentially provide a clue to the motive of the massacre. It is well known that Öland in this period saw intensive contacts with the Roman Empire. In fact, nowhere else in Scandinavia have so many solidi been found as on Öland. Probably, many Ölanders travelled to work for the Roman Emperor getting paid with solidi which they brought back home. Towards the end of the 5th century, there was a dramatic decrease in the solidus gold influx to Öland. The massacre at Sandby borg seems to have occurred around this date, making the potential connection with Roman gold a hotspot for further investigation.
Why we need Your help!
So far, none of the houses in the fort have been fully excavated. In House 40, where c. 1/3 remains to be excavated, the skeletons of two young men have been recovered from the area just inside of the door. One of them had been killed through a massive cut in the head. Further into the house, human remains have been identified but not excavated at six different spots, representing at least another four, possibly more, individuals. The age and sex of these people are unknown so far, but considering the number of glass beads found spread out on the floor, the presence of women among the dead must be considered. The reason these bodies have not yet been recovered is mainly financial; we strongly feel that – given the unique circumstances – we must uncover these humans in the proper way, and we must tell their story. We need Your help to do this, in order to learn more about the massacre and its victims.
With all this in mind, the archaeological excavations at this site must be performed with uttermost care and state-of-the-art techniques of retrieval, documentation and analysis. This is both time consuming and expensive. Furthermore, a vital part of the work is performed indoors: at our desks, in libraries and not least in different laboratories by various scientific experts. In fact, one week of intensive excavation may require months and months of post-excavation work. In short, what need to be done are all very important but costly undertakings, which is why we're relying on You for funding.
What we will use the money for
If we reach our goal with this Kickstarter campaign, we will be able to excavate the remaining 1/3 of the house known as House 40 and produce a richly illustrated book presenting the results in English and Swedish. This is the house where at least six people are lying dead on the floor. Two of them have already been recovered, but the remaining four or more are still there. One main objective of investigating the rest of the house is to recover the skeletons. Furthermore, this particular house has proven to contain numerous potential clues to what actually happened here, and why. The Roman gold coin mentioned above is one example; some exquisite details from weaponry are another. The funding will cover both costs for personnel during fieldwork and post-excavation work and analyses, but also for the production of the book.
Telling the story!
A key issue in this project is presentation and availability. From the start in 2010, public interest has been huge and it escalates for each new season. The spectacular finds in connection with the mind-blowing story call for ambitious publications and other forms of presentation. We also feel obliged to tell the story; the silence of more than 1500 years is now finally broken through our archaeological excavations. This is why we decided to gather the results from the excavation of House 40 in a beautifully illustrated book with texts in English and Swedish. Apart from archaeological and scientific specialists, we have on board the project team professional writers, photographers and graphic designers that will ensure the end product to be of spectacular quality.
A frozen moment
The archaeology at Sandby borg is spectacular in many ways. The finds include one-of-a-kind pieces of top quality migration period artefacts, and their testimony is one of an astonishingly rich and well-travelled community where the women probably enjoyed a particularly high ranking. The human remains take the site to a different level. What makes the site truly unique, however, is the fact that everything has been left untouched. The story revealed by the excavations is about how a single event in the late 5th century evidently put human activities at the site to an end for a very long time to come. This makes the archaeological situation at Sandby borg very different from anything that we as archaeologists normally encounter. In some ways it resembles a marine wreck site, where an unpredicted and sudden event has created a frozen moment preserved in the archaeological remains. The comparisons made by some journalists with the world-famous site of Pompeii are in fact relevant.
Risks and challenges
The challenge is twofold: one part concerns the actual excavation and the other concerns the production of the book. A challenge for excavations in general, and for the Sandby borg excavations in particular, is to predict what costs will arise and what efforts are needed. Naturally, this very much depends on what you find. And if we learned anything at Sandby borg, it is that here, reality exceeds every fantasy. Things can turn up that change the conditions: more skeletons than anticipated, a unique and highly exclusive glass vessel in urgent need of expensive conservation, finds that require extensive scientific analyse and so forth. In the formulation of this project, we have done our best to assess the costs needed to fulfil the goals as specified above. The risk you take as a backer is that, if things during excavation become just a little bit too exciting, we may have to lengthen the fieldwork campaign or cut down on the extent of the excavated area.
The other challenge is to compose a first class publication that gives justice to the trauma and the discoveries in House 40. Our challenge is to manage the balance between etical issues and the spectacular archaeology. Another risk is that the production of the book will take longer than expected due to external factors.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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