Pseudoscience at Ale’s Stones

One of Swedens most famous archaeological sites is located here in the region Scania and is called “Ales stenar” (The Stones of Ale or Ale’s stones) and its located in a spectacular place by the ocean. It is also one of the most debated sites in the last decade. Its not debated among scholars but between united front of scholars and ONE “amateur researcher” (his own description) by the name of Bob G Lind who has an alternative idea on its origin and use and his group of followers. He basically claims conspiracy against him by the professionals and also constantly harass the official tour guides of the stones. “People not accepting his theories are idiots” and so on.

When I studied archaeology I also learnt that he supposedly attacked and vandalized an official archaeological excavation made by people from Lund University. I cannot confirm this, but I have no reason to believe that my professors actually lied. Things like these have lead to very few new archaeological examinations of the place in the last 20 years. I guess few archaeologists wants the fight with mr Lind wich you will get.

The official scientific theory is that it is a grave for someone important, erected in the 600s AD. A quite typical Iron age monument for Sweden and its known as a “Skeppssättning” or Stone ship. The name “Ale” [A-le] and its origin is not known for sure. The stones of the monument are not local – since this is a part of Scania with no such lithology (granits/gneiss) present. They must have been taken from the horsts to the north – some 30-100 miles away or possibly some of them could be IRD. And some stones are reportedly made of quartzite, wich also needs to be transported around approx 30 miles or more.

Bobs theory is that its a solar calender, erected in the Scandinavian Bronze age – some 2000 years earlier. He also has theories on how the monument fits in to a larger concept of lines and monuments in the Scanian landscape. (You can read all about it here at his webpage) He has made a massive work really and has also published a couple of books on Ale’s stones. It all sounds quite believable… if you dont know some other important facts.

There are several reasons to doubt Bobs theories validity no matter how much work he has put in to it. Firstly people should understand Bob is not professionally and academically educated in archaeology and there is a united front of professional archaeologists who disagree with him. Not that authority proves anything in a perfect academical world – but it should give you a clue nevertheless.

The main problem can be divided in to two questions. The use of the monument and then the age of the monument.

On the origin – On the use of the monument the archaeologists cannot prove that it is a grave since – as far as I know – no bones have been found there. The official theory is rather based on reasoning and logic. Stone ships are usually found with graves and bones in them. There is no reason this one, despite it being much larger than most other ships in Sweden is any different. A real scientist cannot disregard this fact no matter what is found at The Stones of Ale. Creating theories that doesnt explain the known facts and the deveations from them is not proper science.

Fig. From Bobs webpage.

Bobs theory is basically based on drawings he has made. Drawings that shows how the stones are lined up to match solar events like the summer solstice and so on. The first problem with this theory is that not even on his drawings the stones match up properly. I would think that it needed to be on the spot accurate for it to really work outside the drawing board of Bob. Secondly its also known that the stones are NOT in their original spot. Several historical records talk about stones being moved around and relocated. Farmers taking stones away for buildings or just moving the rocks out of their way in the hunt for farmland.

Meaning that the true location of each rock is forever unknown. Its not even for sure that all rocks seen today are original since it was quite common that people in the 18th and 19th century when restoring monuments took “some” liberties in the process. A real scientist cannot disregard these problems on the origin and placement of the rocks. But Bob has obviously no problem with this “minor” issue.

And when it comes to archaeo-astronomy one always have to remember how much pseudoscience there exist in and around that field. A massive amount of numerological theories exists on almost all known monuments in the world connecting them to “a bigger picture” by “mathematical evidences” – which in general probably are correctly calculated, but of course totally unimportant. And theres also the fools who talk about ley lines and curry lines in the landscape and how monuments like Ale’s stones are connected to these. All these pseudoscientific things are always connected. One simple rule on archaeo-astronomy to remember for everyone: There’s not one natural stone or man made monument which isnt, at some time during the year, aligned with some astronomical positioning of the sun or the stars. Not one.

On the age – The monument have been dated. With for example C14 on organic material on lichens growing on the rocks of the site. 13 results where given and of those I believe 12 said 600 AD and one pointed to stone age. Ive also heard that more recent studies gave come to similar results with a few exeptions pointing to the bronze age.Besides that there are other methods of dating like the context of the artifacts found on the sights and their dating.

Bob wants us to choose the one result that was deviant and ignore what the majority of the results showed. Anyone who knows anything on C14-methods know that thats not how it works. Its the date found in the vast majority of the results which is the true one.

Stone ships are known to have been built from the bronze age to the iron age – so for the archaeologists its not that important what date was built. Nothing important changes if its Bronze age or Iron age. But for Bob its very important. He needs to place it in the Bronze age, otherwise he cannot claim that it was built for astronomical purposes since the Iron age cultures (The Vendel culture of Scandinavia – a pre-Viking age culture) didnt do such things at all. They worshiped Germanic gods of the Migration age of post-roman Europe – that later developed into the Norse religion. Theres no room any more for the sun worship of the old days. Thats why he need to cherry pick dating results that match his theories.

The problem – Its not just basically archaeologists feelings thats at stake here – its real science vs loud mouth sensational pseudoscience and that there are actually people in authority who have contemplated in letting Bob Lind having an equal space in official litterature and signs at the locality – just because he has demanded it so loudly (and probably unfortunally because they dont understand the difference between science and pseudoscience).

That means that visitors will be given the incorrect image that scientists theories are equal to that of amateurs – or even inferior! And who knows what that will lead to… One thing it has lead to is that some journalists portray this as we are talking about equal scientific theories, and thats just sad.

Recommended reading on the topic:

The blog Aardvarchaeology have several posts on the matter. He digs in more in to the relativistic post modern mumbo jumbo on why Bob even is listened to by the officials.

Skånskan Skånskan DN Sydsvenskan Sydsvenskan Sydsvenskan (These papers are in Swedish only)

This entry was posted in Geoarchaeology, philosophy & history, Scania (Skåne) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Pseudoscience at Ale’s Stones

  1. Pingback: Pseudoscientific theories on viking religion and earthquakes | s a n d b i a n

  2. Pingback: Maniac Monday: Taking your week beyond the mundane with tales of the intense « chroniclesofamisfit

  3. G. Koehn says:

    Thanks for this. I’m a Canadian who recently visited the site and took the info posted there as a generally accepted archaeological view. It’s interesting to hear a different side of the story.

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