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Järnålderns nycklar och deras symbolik: Variationer och likheter i skandinaviskt gravskick
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies, Environmental Archaeology Lab.
2014 (Swedish)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Opinions about the symbolic value of the iron age keys found in graves differ amongst archaeologists. Keys found in graves have during a long time and amongst several archaeologists been seen as an expression of women's power over the households.

This paper highlights some examples of other interpretations of the iron age keys found in burials. It also highlights the differences and similarities amongst keys found within Scandinavia. The amount of and the contexts of keys found in Öland and the Mälardal region in Sweden are compared with papers about keys found in Gotland, Denmark and Norway. The main purpose of this paper is to put the iron age key in a bigger context by looking at the gender and the age of the individual buried with a key and to search for other contexts that connects the graves in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This will make it able to understand the object's symbolism.

The keys are found in different types of burials during the time 0-1050 A.D. Of a total amount of 759 burials dated to 0-1050 A.D. in Öland only seven keys are found in seven burials. In Mälardalen 99 keys are found, the total amount of studied burials in the area are 1572. The keys are only found in female burials in Denmark and in both female and male burials in Sweden and Norway. In Sweden they also occur in children burials. These graves' denominator is that they contain keys; the type of burial, as well as grave gifts, may vary.

My thesis is that keys may have had different values in different geografic places where the cultural values differed. I believe that one have to put the iron age key in an bigger context to be able to understand its true meaning and that the tradition and symbolic purpose behind putting keys in graves differ from area to area.

My opinion is that the interpretation of the key as a symbol of women's power over the household is a result of traditional opinions about gender where women belonged to the private sphere, the household, and the men belonged to the public sphere. I argue that the keys may have had a christian symbolic value in some areas, and that they also could symbolise social, but not necessarily economic, status.

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URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-94633OAI: diva2:786829
Educational program
Bachelor Programme in Archeology
Available from: 2015-02-06 Created: 2014-10-14 Last updated: 2015-02-06Bibliographically approved

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