Figure 58: In 2001, builders widening a cycle track in the town of Uppsala, Uppland province, Sweden, uncovered what soon proved to be a mass grave of casualties from the Battle of Good Friday,

6.2 Encounters

Scotland’s role in the world – both on the wide international scene and closer to home – has always been a defining aspect of the region’s (and, later, the nation’s) identity. Its population has been supplemented through immigration from many different lands, in migratory patterns that feed constantly back and forth rather than in one direction. Its ethnicities have been partly constructed not only through the creation of hybrid identities but also through simple inter-breeding among this diverse populace. All of this involves, of course, a continual transference not only of genes but also of ideas and their material correlates, i.e. the objects of the archaeological record. As with many of the exploratory categories set out in this document, this again is a cross-cutting theme echoing the content and conclusions of other sections. Examples include:

Scotland in Britain and Ireland: embracing not only links south of the Border but also within the Irish Sea region, taking its most dramatic form in the wars with England and the long process of state-development in Scotland;

Mercenaries and the export of aggression: reflecting the extreme prevalence of Scottish fighting forces in Continental armies during much of the Middle Ages, a position shared only with the Germans and Swiss. The interest of this field is matched by its difficulties, a case in point being excavations of foreign battlefields were Scots fought. The Battle of Good Friday, fought between the Danes and Swedes at Uppsala on 6th April 1520, involved a nominally ‘Danish’ army largely comprised of Scottish mercenaries. Bodies from the battle were excavated from a mass grave in 2001, but without ready possibility of identifying their nationality (Syse 2003).

Crusaders and pilgrims, and the steady movement of individuals to the Middle East with both peaceful and aggressive intent (or both, according to circumstance) bringing with them new conduits for material culture and ideas that in turn led to the creation of genuinely new identities characteristic of these groups, linking to similar crusader-pilgrims of other nations.

A photograph of excavated human remains in situ showing 6 skulls, a rib cage and other loose bones

The image shows some of the crania as first found in grave A2, Uppsala mass Grave © Uppland Museum

In 2001, builders widening a cycle track in the town of Uppsala, Uppland province, Sweden, uncovered what soon proved to be a mass grave of casualties from the Battle of Good Friday, fought on 6th April 1520 between an occupying force of Danes and an informal Swedish peasant assembly. The conflict is of relevance in the present context because the nominally ‘Danish’ army was largely composed of Scottish mercenaries. Attacking in heavy snow and across the frozen Fyris River, the Swedish force initially prevailed but failed to consolidate their situation. As the peasants prematurely turned to plundering the town, the Scots troops regrouped on the castle hill and then counter-attacked through the streets to achieve a total victory. Remains of some 60 individuals were found in the mass grave at the foot of the castle hill, most with blade injuries or other clear signs of trauma (Syse 2003). The corpses were interred in several layers, in some of which miscellaneous body parts had been reassembled in broadly anatomical position (i.e. several heads in a pile, connecting to piles of torsos and limbs). As the Swedish bodies are recorded as having been left on the field, it is likely that the occupants of the grave were from the Danish/Scottish army, though no isotope analyses have been undertaken that might illuminate their geographic origin.

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