Geoscents - fusing the best of both worlds

Chapter 1: So little time, so much to do

Geoscents - fusing the best of both worlds

Author: Katherine Lehmuller, October 2016

On the Baltic island of Öland, just off Sweden’s mainland, is a ring fort known as Sandby Borg. This fort is the location of a terrible event that took place roughly 1,500 years ago. Recently discovered archaeological treasures have awakened public interest in Sandby Borg, which until 2010 has remained virtually untouched. The site is a treasure trove full of information waiting to be discovered. With the help of the data collector Leica Zeno 20, ZenoCollector by Esri® app and Fabel, the world’s first licensed archaeology dog, the mysteries of life and death in 500 AD begin to take shape. Limited time and costs of this archaeological dig have led researchers at Kalmar Läns Museum in Sweden to look for solutions. By combining a dog’s incredibly acute sense of smell with an industryleading data collector using GNSS accuracy, documenting and presenting history to the public have been changed for the better.

In the late 5th century the Roman Empire was in turmoil. Famine and violence lead many Germanic tribes to migrate to presumably safer places in Europe. The turbulence reached far beyond the Roman Empire and Europe. The inhabitants of the island of Öland built their villages inside circular stone walls, known as ring forts. These forts contained some of the highest standards of living in Scandinavia at that time.

The 5,000 m² walled area known as Sandby Borg is an immense challenge. Little of what happened there so long ago is known except that there was a surprise attack on inhabitants. They were struck down during their daily routines with only enough notice to hide their valuables. Highly unusual, the bodies were left unburied, lying where they fell – on the floors of their homes or over smouldering fire pits. All possessions, such as livestock and valuables, were left behind. Since then, the ring fort has not been disturbed. Presumably there could be the remains of hundreds of victims at the fort. The place is like a time capsule, offering a unique insight of how daily life might have looked like by the end of the 5th century AD and is just waiting to be discovered says Helena Victor, project manager of the Sandby Borg project.

So little time, so much to do

Unmatched levels of cultural and historical finds remain below just centimetres of soil at Sandby Borg. When word got out about this invaluable find, plundering and looting became an issue. There was a possibility important historical information could be lost or destroyed forever. The Sandby Borg project began in 2010 with little idea of what lay below. A limited budget permitted only a short period of excavation in summer. Since its discovery, only 5 per cent of the site has been excavated. As yet, only two houses have been completely excavated, where unexpectedly researchers found 11 skeletons. These remains are complicated and time-consuming to remove. They bring important clues as to how people in this time lived and why they were attacked.

Explore next chapter: Improve, simplify and communicate

Story: Geoscents - fusing the best of both worlds
Chapter 1: So little time, so much to do
Chapter 2: Improve, simplify and communicate
Chapter 3: A dog's sense of smell - doing what no technique as yet can do
Chapter 4: A story starts to take shape

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