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ARCHAEOLOGY

Hundreds of 17th century cannonballs unearthed in Stockholm

Archaeologists digging in Stockholm's Slussen area have stumbled on a unique find that has left them scratching their heads: hundreds of cannonballs from the 17th century. But who left them there and why?

Hundreds of 17th century cannonballs unearthed in Stockholm
The area where the cannonballs were found. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

A proposal to redevelop Stockholm's Slussen junction was approved in 2013, and since then archaeologists have been excavating the area as the construction work continues. It is the largest such excavation in Sweden and tells the story of a time when the area was the hub of Stockholm's iron trade.

Last month they uncovered more than 200 cannonballs in what used to be a moat.

“This is a unique find. I don't know, off the top of my head, of any other place in Sweden where so many cannonballs have been found in one place and there has definitely not been a similar find in Stockholm before,” Michel Carlsson, archaeologist at Arkeologikonsult, told The Local on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake


Some of the cannonballs found in November. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

They believe the cannonballs were dumped on the site intentionally, either during the demilitarization of Slussen's fortifications in the early 17th century (when the military defences moved as the city grew) or when the city's facilities for weighing iron were moved to the site from the Old Town in the 1660s.

“One question we are considering and have not yet found the answer to is why the cannonballs were not saved – if nothing else than for the sake of the metal value,” said Carlsson.

WATCH: New video of shipwrecks in Stockholm's archipelago


More than 200 cannonballs have so far been found. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

The cannonballs that have so far been found vary in size and originally weighed around 0.85 to 8.5 kilo. Grenades, hand grenades and parts of at least seven cannon were also found on the site in November.

In the 1640s Sweden exported around 11,000 tonnes of wrought iron annually, increasing to 40,000 tonnes in the 1740s. Other finds last month include shards of German ceramics from the 14th century, remains of a well-known arch bridge built in the mid 18th-century and more wrought iron objects. 


One of the cannons found on the site. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

Exciting finds in central Stockholm are nothing new. During previous digging work at Slussen archaeologists have found a 16th century kitchen complete with tobacco pipes, coins, Viking era pearls, and much more. 

Construction work at Slussen is expected to be finished in 2025. The existing junction was built in 1935, but there have been various locks on the site since the 1600s, raising and lowering the water level to help transport boats between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. The word sluss means 'lock' in Swedish.

READ ALSO: Swedish king's 'forgotten' warship found in central Stockholm


Remains of an arch bridge that used to run east of the locks in the mid-18th century. Photo: Arkeologikonsult

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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