Det rituella landskapet: Kosmografiska uttrycksformer och territoriell struktur
2000 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Symbolic landscapes have now for some time been discussed in various disciplines. They have been interpreted as the result of culturalactivities, often connected with territoriality and religious or political ambitions and in particular steered by human desire to leave animprint of power and control. This is also relevant for prehistoric landscapes, but they are at the same time more imbued with cosmology,ritual and religion than their average modem day equivalents. In prehistory faith and science, the religious and the profane were closelyintertwined and almost impossible to separate. Therefore, all symbolic landscapes in prehistory were in practice also ritual landscapes,in which humans attempted, by ritual means, to concretize their cosmological ideas. Cosmographic expression of this kind was apparentlyoften connected to astronomy in an attempt to link ideology to what was conceived as powerful as well as divine.
Research into the fields of prehistoric astronomy and cosmology in primarily northwestern Europe, with ethnographic comparisonsfrom other parts of the world, is discussed here as a phenomenological background. An investigation is then carried out, focussing inparticular on the cardinal points and their cosmographical function in prehistory and especially in the Bronze Age. Western Östergötland, just east of Lake Vättern in Sweden (map p. 210), is thereby studied in detail. In this area cosmographic expression, deduced froma source-material of barrows, appears to be closely linked to territorial behaviour. What can be attested to here could be recognizable inother Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, and therefore western Östergötland can be regarded as a case study. The area is one ofScandinavia's most important early agricultural landscapes with geographically widespread contacts in the Bronze Age. The palissadedLate Bronze Age centre at Vistad with its Lausitz pottery was of great regional importance. The largest Early Iron Age cemetery on theSwedish mainland has been found in the area, and the Rök stone was erected just after AD 800 with the world's longest runic inscription.Alvastra, Scandinavia's first Cistercian monastery, was founded in 1143 at the foot of the legendary Mount Omberg (back and frontcover) with its three hillforts, by tradition known as the holy mountain of Östergötland The mountain seems to have had a continuoussymbolic connection with religious and worldly power.
Apart from a phenomenological approach in the survey of cosmographic expression in general, the purpose of this dissertation is toinvestigate the barrows of western Östergötland, Sweden, thus examining and discussing their location in the landscape as well asinterpreting them in relation to cosmology, ritual and territoriality. A cognitive processual method is used, and the material includesprimarily the barrows registered at the Swedish Board of National Antiquities, in total 232 of which 185 are located outside graveyards.Of those barrows (c. 17%), which have been dated, c. 90% were erected in the Bronze Age or the Late Neolithic. The barrows werestructured into groups by means of a nearest neighbour method and their intervisibility was investigated. An extensive visual networkwas discovered between different barrows, a network which was presumably used as a means of communication, both for practical andritual purposes. Furthermore the groups of barrows largely coincide with the core areas of the medieval hundreds. A computer-basedinvestigation revealed that many barrows can be structured geographically into "cardinal crosses", each containing four barrows in theeast, west, north and south respectively and having one of the two axes bisected by the other, every axis linking two different groups ofbarrows (tribes or clans) with each other. A statistically significant correlation between the crosses and the boundaries of the hundredsconfirmed an intentional spatial lay-out. Thus the hundreds probably have their roots in Bronze Age tribal territories, near the boundariesof which ritually used crosses were apparently located. The same result was obtained from an investigation of place-names signifyingplaces of worship, also located near such boundaries.
Four early medieval churches in the same area in Östergötland are also located in the same kind of cross. A barrow, probably fromthe Bronze Age, was found in the centre. This connection between churches and a barrow was not considered fortuitous but instead wasexplained by means of a hypothesis that the churches were built on or near pre-Christian places of worship. The ritual continuity impliedby such a hypothesis is vindicated in a few barrows, containing remains from several prehistoric periods from the Late Neolithic wellinto the Iron Age. Many barrows from the Bronze Age were most probably venerated and attended to as part of an old ritual landscapeand connected to eschatological belief systems, even when Christianity was introduced. Some of the barrows could therefore have beendestroyed and replaced by Christian churches.
The material presented here strengthens the image of an hierarchically constructed society with an evolved territorial structure inBronze Age Östergötland It could be called a chiefdom or at least a very well-developed tribal society, containing supertribal ritualfunctions. The prehistoric contacts between Scandinavia and the continent have in all probability concerned not only an exchange ofcommodities but also elements of knowledge and ideology. During the Bronze Age these contacts were maintained by an emerging elite,probably consisting of a politically dominant priesthood with a knowledge of astronomy and with well-developed rituals.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2000. , 210 p.
Aun, ISSN 0284-1347 ; 28
Archaeology, landscape, territories, Bronze Age, barrows, visual network, chiefdom, ritual, religion, cosmography, astronomy, cardinal
points, medieval churches, Östergötland, cognitive
Research subject Archaeology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-67ISBN: 91-506-1399-5OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-67DiVA: diva2:167980
2000-04-28, Vasasalen, Uppsala slott, Uppsala, 13:00