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Med graven som granne : Om bronsålderns kulthus
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Archaeology.
2002 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
The Grave as a Neighbour : On Bronze Age Ritual Houses (English)
Abstract [en]

The archaeological material used in this thesis consists of ritual Bronze Age houses, different from ordinary dwelling houses in construction and context. My investigation is mainly focused on South Scandinavian Bronze Age material with strong emphasis of the c. 80 ritual houses of Sweden, generally situated in the central areas of Bronze Age landscape. The material is divided into two types, here referred to as post-hole houses and stone foundation houses, which are homogenous in appearance and environmental location. The excavation of a stone foundation house in Håga, Uppland has yielded valuable information in about ritual houses.

First, a context for ritual buildings and their milieu is provided. The larger houses with stone foundations can be dated to the Early Bronze Age, and the smaller post hole houses to the Late Bronze Age. The houses are compared to other phenomena, and discussed as expressions of ritual actions, e.g.., house symbolism in the form of house urns, graves on top of dwelling houses, and typical settlement finds such as fire-cracked stones in connection to graves. Interpretations of ritual contexts as rock carvings, settlement organisation and grave enclosures are included. Methodologically, I find it necessary to seek analogies from anthropology and history of religion in order to analyse and deepen the interpretations of Bronze Age religion, ideology and social structures. Emphasis is put on ancestor worship.

The morphology of the dwelling house was transferred to graves and ritual contexts. This pattern represents a wish to transfer an incorporated meaning of the concept of house to the sphere of the dead, the ancestors. The ritual houses express the Idea of the House, where the dwelling house is the basis of a symbolism in which house and home is the centre for human beings and their culture. It is a symbol of the household and the settlement, of nourishment, warmth and safety, of family, kin and their reproduction, of the beginning and end of life.

A ritual house is a building of the same size and plan as a dwelling house or an economical building, but shaped for ritual purposes to enclose a holy area, a temenos. However, it often lacks walls, entrance and roof and is spatially associated with graves or areas of strongly ritual character. Building material, situation and orientation deviate from profane houses, and ordinary settlement finds are absent.

The sturdy walls of the houses with stone foundations, like the post-marked walls of the smaller ritual houses, have had the purpose of delimiting an area. They were constructed for enclosing ancestors. By constructing ritual houses, Bronze Age man desired a symbolic representation of a dwelling house for the ancestors to reside in.

The Scandinavian Bronze Age landscape was settled by stratified societies in which an elite controlled metal resources and trade routes. Ritual houses were used by this elite to display their ancestors and to show their strong connections to the past and to their origin. Thus, the houses manifested their supremacy and their access to the origin. The use of the Idea of the House in constructing these houses also visualised the strong connection to family and kin.

The change in appearance and size of ritual houses, dwelling houses and graves indicates a change in ideology and in the perception of the individual in the Bronze Age of Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Arkeologi , 2002. , 214 p.
Aun, ISSN 0284-1347 ; 30
Keyword [en]
Archaeology, Bronze Age, ritual houses, religion, ancestors, Håga
Keyword [sv]
Arkeologi, Bronsålder, kulthus, religion, förfäder, anfäder, Håga
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-2024ISBN: 91-506-1558-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-2024DiVA: diva2:161656
Public defence
2002-05-18, Minus, Gustavianum, Uppsala, 13:00
Available from: 2002-04-26 Created: 2002-04-26Bibliographically approved

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