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Changes in cereal cultivation during the Iron Age in southern Sweden: a compilation and interpretation of the archaeobotanical material
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies, Environmental Archaeology Lab.
2011 (English)In: Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, ISSN 0939-6314, E-ISSN 1617-6278, Vol. 20, no 5, 479-494 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Macrofossil data from 73 sites dating to the south Swedish Iron Age (500 b.c.-a.d. 1100) have been compiled and analyzed in order to elucidate long term changes in cereal cultivation. The analyses indicate that “permanent field” agriculture was established at the end of the Bronze Age utilizing Hordeum vulgare var vulgare as a primary crop and Triticum aestivum ssp vulgare/compactum, Triticum spelta/dicoccum/monococcum, Avena sativa and Secale cereale as secondary crops. An observed change towards the end of Roman Iron Age (1-a.d. 400) is the expansion of Secale cereale and Avena sativa cultivation. Evidence also suggests that winter sowing of the former commenced at the latest during the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries a.d. The introduction of winter sowing possibly coincided with the establishment of crop rotation agriculture. During most of the Iron Age southern Sweden displays significant regional variations with regards to cereal cultivation practice. There is however evidence that a more homogenous agriculture appeared across the investigated area from the beginning of the Viking Age (a.d. 800-1100) onwards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berlin: Springer-International , 2011. Vol. 20, no 5, 479-494 p.
Keyword [en]
Southern Sweden, Iron Age, Cereal cultivation, Regional compilation, Plant macrofossil material
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-46676DOI: 10.1007/s00334-011-0283-5OAI: diva2:440879
Available from: 2011-09-14 Created: 2011-09-09 Last updated: 2014-04-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Cereal husbandry and settlement: Expanding archaeobotanical perspectives on the southern Scandinavian Iron Age
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cereal husbandry and settlement: Expanding archaeobotanical perspectives on the southern Scandinavian Iron Age
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The here presented PhD project explores the phenomenon of cereal cultivation during the Iron Age (c. 500 BC – AD 1100) in southern Scandinavia. The main body of the thesis consists of four articles. These were written with the aim to identify chronological, geographical, theoretical and methodological gaps in current research, to develop, apply and evaluate approaches to how new knowledge on Iron Age cereal cultivation can be attained, and to assess the interaction between archaeobotany and other specialisms currently used in settlement archaeology. The introduction section of the thesis also contains a historical overview of archaeobotanical research on cereal cultivation in southern Scandinavia.

The first article is a compilation and summary of all available previously performed  archaeobotanical investigations in southern Sweden. This data is compared and discussed in relation to similar publications in Denmark and smaller scale compilations previously published in Sweden. The main result of the study is an updated and enhanced understanding of the main developments in the investigation area and a deepened knowledge of local development chronologies and trajectories in different parts of southern Sweden.

The second article is a methodological presentation of a multiproxy analysis combining plant macrofossil analysis, phosphate analysis, magnetic susceptibility analysis and measurement of soil organic matter by loss on ignition. The applicability of the method for identification and delineation of space functions on southern Scandinavian Iron Age sites is discussed and illustrated by two case studies from the Danish site of Gedved Vest. Particular focus is placed on exploration of the use of the functional analysis for assessment of taphonomic and operational contexts of carbonised plant macrofossil assemblages.

The third article aims at presenting an Iron Age cereal cultivation history for east-central Jutland, an area identified at the outset of the project as under-represented in archaeobotanical studies. The article combines data from depth analyses of material from the sites of Gedved Vest and Kristinebjerg Øst (analysed with the methods and theory presented in the second article) with a compilation of previously performed archaeobotanical analyses from east-central Jutland. The main results of the study are that developments in the study area appear to follow a chronology similar to that previously observed on Funen rather than the rest of the peninsula. Rye cultivation is furthermore discussed as more dynamic and flexible than previously presented in Scandinavian archaeobotanical literature.

The fourth and final article leaves archaeobotany as the main topic. It focuses instead on evaluating, theorising and expanding the multiproxy method presented in the second article by a thorough comparison of the botanical, geochemical and geophysical methods to other techniques of functional analysis currently used in archaeology. These techniques include studies of artefact distributions, assessments of spatial relations between settlement features, and studies of the structural details of dwellings and other constructions. The main result is that there is a correspondence between the functional indications provided by botanical, geochemical and geophysical methods and techniques used in mainstream archaeology. The comparison furthermore shows that a combination of the two data sets allows for more highly resolved functional interpretations than if they are used separately.

The main conclusion of the PhD thesis, based on the discussions in all four articles, is that archaeobotanical questions commonly necessitate the assessment of non-botanical archaeological material. The comparison of archaeobotanical data to other segments of the archaeological record does, however, enable the use of the former as an archaeological resource for addressing non-botanical questions. The increased understanding of (mainly settlement) site dynamics resulting from this integration of methods allows archaeobotanists to address increasingly complex botanical questions. Increased and more structured integration between archaeobotany and other specialisms operating within the framework of settlement archaeology is therefore argued to be the preferred approach to performing both high quality archaeobotany and settlement archaeology.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 2014. 112 p.
Archaeology and environment, ISSN 0281-5877 ; 28
cereal cultivation, iron age, southern Scandinavia, archaeobotany, settlement archaeology
National Category
Research subject
environmental archaeology; Archaeology
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-87499 (URN)978-91-7601-011-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-23, Beteendevetarhuset, Bt 102, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-04-30 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2015-12-07Bibliographically approved

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