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Settlement and hunting, mobility and agriculture

Settlement and hunting, mobility and agriculture

Animals, humans and changing landscapes in the interior of Scandinavia 1000BCE-500CE

Our goal is to challenge the gross division between hunters and peasants that is still used and mediated by archeology in the narration of human history. We ask ourselves the question whether people have really been either mobile hunters or resident farmers? Our starting point is archaeological material from a prehistoric period that is clearly associated with agriculture, namely the Bronze Age. Even if agriculture is introduced earlier, it is at this time that it is considered to break through with full force and a rich elite is formed in society. The Nordic Bronze Age is a common cultural sphere in northern Europe about 3000 years ago and had its center in today's Denmark and Scania.

If the people in the Nordic Bronze Age sphere were farmers, does that mean that the hunters remained in northern marginal areas and that the Stone Age continued there? The agricultural revolution seems to stop in the middle of the Scandinavian peninsula, with the exception of the coastal areas. This is the boundary defined for the Nordic Bronze Age. It is also, which is important, the boundary of today's agricultural area. It is becoming more difficult to engage in full-scale agriculture in the inland forest landscape of Scandinavia, but that does not mean that Stone Age life continued there and that people worked in the landscape as they always did. If we look at the archaeological material, it is clear how people there are also changing their way of life during the Bronze Age and there are indications that parts of agriculture are being taken over. So one might ask how many peasants these people really were?

Littersjšöarna. Photo by KG Svensson

If we turn the perspective, it is also a relatively uniform picture of the farmers that is painted. We want to similarly challenge this picture and study the variations in what is usually categorized as agriculture, for example different varieties of cultivation or animal husbandry.

To understand people and communities in the inner forest areas about 3000 years ago and to nuance the image of the Nordic Bronze Age, we believe that the traditional definition of hunters and farmers inhibits understanding. Our purpose is therefore to study how these communities were formed through relationships with animals and landscapes beyond the starting point of a strict division between either mobile hunters or resident farmers.

In our ongoing research, it has become clear that the landscape's seasonal changes are of great importance for understanding the people and their changed lifestyle in this part of Scandinavia. Against this background, we want to study the variations that are visible in the archaeological material and not least how relics linked to hunting, livestock farming and agriculture are structured in relation to both movement and settlement in all parts of central Scandinavia.

We want to understand how and why the relationships between people, animals and landscapes developed and changed over time and how it affected society. The result will provide new knowledge about how societies, which are traditionally considered to be located on the edge of the Bronze Age world, were part of larger social and economic networks during the period.

Joakim Wehlin, Uppsala university

Magnus Odebäck Ljunge, Stockholm University

Jan Apel, Stockholm University

Financier: The Swedish Research Council (2022-2024)