Den yngre järnålderns gravskick i Uppland: Framväxten av den arkeologiska bilden och en materialitet i förändring.

  • Date:
  • Location: Engelska parken Geijersalen 6-1023, Engelska parken, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Therus, Jhonny
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia
  • Contact person: Therus, Jhonny
  • Disputation

This thesis examines archaeological approaches to burials and changing mortuary practices during the Late Iron Age (c. 500-1100 AD) in central Eastern Sweden. Understanding the change in mortuary practices is fundamental to the study of the Late Iron Age.

Our knowledge of burial customs is largely colored by 20th century studies of burial monuments, in particular the large mound, boat and chamber burials, which was often combined with analyses of Eddic and saga material. More recent excavations, however, have shown that burials are much more complex than previously thought.

This thesis comprises two parts. The first considers eight formative publications, written between 1904 and 2005, in order to examine the historiography of Iron Age burial archaeology. It explores the changing perception of graves and the archaeological practises documenting them. The impact of Björn Ambrosiani’s two-part model is considered as influential in shaping the definition of burials and their typology.

The second part of the thesis addresses the changing mortuary practices of the Late Iron Age and highlights several burial types and practices, centered on cremated bones and stones, which have not been sufficiently studied. Two major changes are identified during the period. The first comprises a move from dispersed to individual burials, while the second consists of a change from cremation to inhumation practices that coincides with the Christianization process. This part of the thesis features a number of case studies that illustrate the change in mortuary practices. Among the phenomena discussed are the stone structures called hǫrgr, the amulet rings commonly found in cremation burials and at older cultic sites, and the hybrid nature of Late Viking Age burials. The study found that from the late 900s to the late 1000s, cremation and inhumation are practiced side by side in many burial grounds.

The discussion introduces the concept of “bridging practices” – memory practices consciously connecting the past and the future, as a key to understanding the burials of the period. These bridging practices served to facilitate and normalize processes of change, and are argued to be the defining trait of Late Viking Age mortuary behavior.