by Peter J. Ross (Flinders PhD candidate), Claus Skriver (Moesgaard Museum), and Peter Moe Astrup (Moesgaard Museum)
For the most part of June, we have been excavating an inundated, underwater, Mesolithic kitchen midden on Hjarnø Island in Jutland in collaboration with Moesgaard Museum (Aarhus, DK) and Flinders University’s ARC Discovery Project Deep History of Sea Country. A kitchen midden is a type of shell midden, distinctive in that 50% of its volume consists of shells or shell fragments, and the midden forms a continuous horizon exceeding 10 square meters. Since our return to Moesgaard Museum following the Hjarnø excavation, we have been sorting kitchen midden material, cleaning field equipment, and ensuring all of our work has been properly recorded. On 27 June 2017, we took time away from these duties to help recover a logboat from an underwater archaeological site on the island of Funan, immediately east of Jutland.
The Ronæs Skov site, located in three meters of water in the Gamborg Fjord on the western side of Funen, is a sea-level transgressed site containing all of the archaeological signatures to indicate a hunter-gatherer settlement during the Late Ertebølle period (4,400 to 4,000 cal BC). It was discovered in the 1980s, and since then has been the subject of several excavations. Lots of fishing implements, woven purse fish traps, fish weirs, boat paddles, and other artefacts of both inshore and offshore fishing were recorded. Organic materials on underwater archaeological sites in Denmark are often preserved due to the anoxic conditions provided by gyttja, a type of mud formed from partially decayed peat. The Ronæs Skov site is slightly younger than the one we were excavating at Hjarnø and also features a shell midden, although it has not been excavated so we don’t know if it is a kitchen midden.
A few weeks ago, a recreational SCUBA diver spotted fragments of a logboat on the site, recently revealed due to shifting sediments. Logboats were the earliest type of watercraft in Denmark, up to ten meters in length and usually made from the hollowed out trunks of lime trees. The Langeland Museum decided to recover the fragments in order to conserve them, and to prevent their possible loss. Otto Uldum from Langeland invited us to participate in this recovery because Moesgaard Museum is one of five museums responsible for managing the maritime cultural heritage in Denmark. Moesgaard staff have collaborated with Langeland Museum on other submerged archaeological projects over the past twelve years.
Two weeks before our arrival, the logboat fragments were surveyed into the existing site plan, then covered with sand to protect them from damage. During our part of the project, two teams, each consisting of three divers, raised the logboat fragments. Two divers gently excavated the fragments, while the third diver used a video camera to fully document the process. The first team exposed the two largest fragments, each about 30cm x 40cm, arranged the fragments on fibercore panels for support and wrapped them with First Aid type roller bandages to prevent movement before placing them into plastic containers for safe transfer to the shore. The second team, consisting of your authors, finished recovering the smaller portions of the fragment using the same methods.
With the fragments on shore, the onsite conservator prepared the artefacts for transportation to Langeland Museum where they will be treated with polyethylene glycol to conserve the wood, and undergo further assessments related to species identification, radiocarbon dating, etc. The local media were interested in our work and reported the day’s events here (Danish only).