A gold ring and a crystal amulet with carved figures are two unique finds among the nearly 30,000 objects discovered during excavations of medieval Kalmar in Sweden.

Remains of hundreds of buildings, cellars, streets, latrines, and everyday objects from 400 years ago, between 1250 and 1650, have come to light during two years of archaeological research in central Kalmar. Archaeologists from the National Historical Museums have excavated parts of around 50 medieval plots, a dozen streets, and sections of the old city wall.

In total, over 30,000 objects have been found, including traces of the Kalmar War of 1611. It’s very unusual to investigate such extensive contiguous areas in the middle of a city, and the results exceed all expectations.

We have been able to discover the Middle Ages of the city and study how people lived, what they ate and drank, and how it changed over time. Archaeology is like a peephole into medieval history that allows us to better understand what life was like several hundred years ago, says Magnus Stibéus, project director of Arkeologerna, the archaeological consulting firm in charge of the work.

Recently, just before finishing the excavation, two spectacular finds were made that caught attention. These are a gold ring and a very special alsengem.

The gold ring was almost new with a motif of Christ and, like the alsengemen, was found in contexts we have interpreted as waste deposits. Probably someone had bad luck and lost the ring 500 years ago. The alsengem is broken and it’s possible it was discarded, explains Magnus Stibéus.

The gold ring with the carved figure of Christ is dated to the early 15th century. It’s possible that such a ring was worn by a woman, as it is quite small. Similar rings have been found in northern Finland, Östergötland, and Uppland.

Alsengemmer are small crystal stones found in both religious and secular contexts, believed to have been used as pilgrimage amulets. They are named after the Danish island of Als, where they were first found. The alsengem found by archaeologists in Kalmar dates from the 13th and 14th centuries and has three engraved figures.

Among the most unusual finds unearthed by archaeologists are also the remains of a runestone, which may come from a tombstone in a Kalmar cemetery from the 12th century. Another interesting find is the imprint of a cat’s paw in brick. Additionally, many traces attest to wartime situations and how the Kalmar War devastated the city.

The research shows that practically all farms were burned down in connection with the Danish attack on the city in the summer of 1611, which is evident especially in the fire horizons and the collapsed buildings. We have also found a large number of projectiles, such as cannonballs, musket balls, and pistol bullets, but also swords, explains Magnus Stibéus.

The ability to simultaneously investigate such extensive parts of the medieval city makes the project unique.

The remains of buildings and cultural layers constitute a historical archive containing enormous amounts of information and stories about political and economic ambitions, daily life, and living conditions of past generations. We delve into wide areas of the medieval city and know the traces of social and economic existence of different groups: merchants, artisans, officials, ecclesiastics, rich and poor, says Magnus Stibéus.


Arkeologerna (National Historical Museums of Sweden)

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