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The Tornionlaakso year book 1977

The runes

‘Round one o’clock we arrived at lake Käymäjärvi situated by the foot of the small fell called Vinsa (Windso). We climbed the fell; the monument we were looking for was supposed to be there, but it was all buried under snow. Our Lapps kept on searching for the monument for a long time. When I started to have regrets that I had based the setting out for such a strenuous journey on such vague information the digging turned out succesful and the object was found. I asked the Lapps to clear it from snow and also to light a big fire so the rest of the snow would melt and we would be able to see properly
the so-called miracle.


It is a stone with an irregularly shaped part of about three feet width
rises above the ground to the height of a foot and a half. One side of the stone has a quite even level which however is not completely erect but forms an accute angle with the horizontal plane. On this surface you can see two very straight lines of engravings of the height of over an inch. They have been engraved rather deep in the stone and they are similar to notches cut in wood with an axe or a chisel, broader at the surface and accute-angled at the bottom

Outside the area of these two lines there are a few bigger signs. Although it seems that these engravings had been made with an iron, I would not dare to say with any certainty whether they were made by human hand or by nature.
(p 149)


The vicar of the region Mr Brunnius speaks about this monument in the study he has published and which deals with Tornio and its surroundings. He regards it as a rune and mentions that in earlier days three crowns could be distinguished in the stone but which have eroded in the course of time. Celsius, well familiar with the language of the runes, however, was not able to decipher these signs. According to him they are different from any other runic letters in Sweden. As to the crowns, if there ever were any, they have been eroded off with time.


There are several layers in the stone. The signs have been engraved on a surface resembling flint whereas elsewhere, especially between the two lines, the stone looks softer an more slaty.

Whatever the case, Celsius and myself, each one of us separately, copied with greatest care all that we were able to distinguish on the stone. Although it well may be just a trick played by nature, the fame alone that this stone has gained in the region would justify the description I have givenThe stone did not have the beauty of Greek or Roman monuments but provided the engravings on its surface were a form of writing, it most obviously has the honour of being the oldest inscription in the world. The region where the stone is situated is inhabited by people who live in the forests like wild animals. It is not likely that they ever would have had any memorable events to tell for the posterity, and even if that had been the case, they would have hardly known any means for doing so. It cannot be presumed that this country ­ considering its geographic position ­ would have been inhabited by other, more civilised people. Due to the rigour of the weather and the barrenness of the land the destiny of this region will be to offer a refuge to some unlucky ones who know of no other regions.
(p 151- 152)

 

Account of a journey to the far north to see a monument


‘ When we were travelling back from Kengis we met several caravans of Lapps on the ice of the river. They were carrying to Pello the pelts and fish they had exchanged with the merchants in Tornio at the market of Upper Lapland. These caravans consist of sleds in long lines: the first reindeer is walked by Lapp on foot draws the first sled, this sled is tied together with the second reindeer and so forth, up to 30 ­ 40 reindeer in all. They all step precisely along the narrow trail trodden down in the snow by the first reindeer and made deeper by the later ones.

When the reindeer are tired and the Lapps have found a suitable place to camp, they arrange the reindeer harnessed to the sleds to form a large circle in the middle of the river. The reindeer lie down on the snow and are fed with lichen by the Lapps. The Lapps are not much less modest themselves. Many are content with lighting a fire and lying down on the ice of the river meanwhile their wives and children take out from the sleds some fish for an evening snack. Others put up something that resembles a tent - dwellings well worthy of the Lapps- wretched rag huts, made of coarse woolly fabric that is so blackened by smoke it looks dyed. The fabric is wound around poles conically arranged with the upper part of the cone uncovered to let the smoke out. The most comfort loving persons will lie on the reindeer or bear pelts in their tents, spending their time smoking tobacco and holding other people’s chores in contempt.


These eople do not have any other housing than tents, and their only possession is reindeer. The reindeer feeds only on lichen which does not grow everywhere. When the reindeer herd has gnawed the last of lichen on one fell top, the Lapps will have to take their herd to another fell, and so they are bound to roam in the wilderness for ever.

Their forest is awesome in the winter but even more impossible in the summer to live in. The air is thick with all sorts of flies; they smell the humans already from a distance and keep on persecuting them. When a wanderer stops the flies immediately form a black wall around him through which it is not possible to see. To avoid this one has to be in constant motion or burn fresh wood in which case the smoke is so thick that it does repel the insects but is equally repelling for the humans as well. Sometimes one is compelled to smear ones skin with resin from the spruces. The flies bite with hostility and many of them cause real wounds from which big blood drops drip.

For the time when these insects are at their most furious ­ i.e. the two months that we spent in the forests undertaking our triangular measurements ­ the Lapps flee with their reindeer to the shores of the Arctic Ocean where they are safe from flies.

I have so far not said anything about the appearance or size of the Lapps of which many accounts have been spread. Their small size has been exaggerated but their ugliness cannot possibly have been exaggerated. The severe and long winter against which they have scarcely any other shelter than the tents I have mentioned, tents where a person has one side burnt by the huge fire while the other side is frozen,; the short summer during which the rays of the sun scorch them incessantly; the barren land that does not produce corn, fruit or vegetables ­ all this has obviously caused the decay of the human race in this climate.

By their size they are smaller than other people, but they are nevertheless as short-grown as some travellers have claimed them to be, making them into dwarfs. Among the many Lapp men and women I saw I measured one woman who was approximately 25 ­ 30 years of age. She was breast feeding a child that she carried in a basket made of birch bark. According to the concept I had formed of the physique of the Lapps the woman looked healthy and well-proportioned. Her height was 4 feet and 2 inches 5 lines and she must have been one of the smallest I had seen but her shortness did not however stand out as disproportionate or odd in this region. A mistake may have been made about the small size of the Lapps and about the small size of their heads if one has discarded the point that I managed to perceive despite the fact that the Lapps are not generally aware of their age themselves. The children have ugly features from the early stage on and sometimes they look like aged persons of small size. They start very early to be involved in riding the sled or carrying out the same chores as their fathers. The notion most travellers have formed about the size of the Lapps and the big size of their heads has probably been based on the proportions of the children. I have been close to a mistake in this matter myself. I do not want to deny that the full-grown adult Lapps are generally shorter than other people, but in the accounts their size has been made even smaller by the mistake I mentioned or maybe just for the fact that human nature is attracted to all things miraculous. Generally they seem to me to be shorter by a head than we, and this is a significant difference. (pp 155 ­ 157)

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