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The allure of the exotic: The social use of non-local raw materials during the Stone Age in Sweden
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

By use of ethnoarchaeological method this thesis attempts to investigate the social roles of non-local raw materials. Personal ornaments are studied in a world-wide range of ethnographic contexts, attention being focused on the origin of raw materials used to make these objects and the social use they assume in the 64 different societies analysed. The cross-cultural study shows that non-local or inaccessible materials are often used as symbols of prestige. In another cross-cultural study Mary Helms has discussed the concept of geographical distance and found that, far from being a neutral concept, it acquires in many societies the same value as vertical distance, i.e: contact with the spiritual world. This may be one of the explanations for the widespread allure of the exotic. This model of the alluring exotic is used in two case studies. The first examines single burials in southern Scandinavia from the Mesolithic, the Early Neolithic, the Pitted Ware Culture and the Battle Axe Culture, mapping the occurrence and frequency of non-local raw materials, in order to establish whether structures of inequality or social diffentiation can be discovered. Inaccessible raw materials are present in all Stone Age contexts, suggesting that some kind of social diffentiation was present from the Atlantic Chronozone onwards. Status-markers are most widespread were most frequent and most widely dispersed in the Battle Axe Culture, possibly suggesting the presence of social hierarchies. The second case study looks at the social use of exotic and local slate in southern and central Sweden during the Stone Age. Red slate has often been regarded as exotic in this area but an attempt to provenance slate using X-raydiffraction analysis shows-that red slate could be local and, what is more, that slate of other colours could be exotic. It seems unlikely that a concentration of red slate in eastern middle Sweden is an expression of a socially differentiated system in the Mesolithic, Early or Middle Neolithic. Nothing else in the archaeological record implies a system of prestige goods in the area until the Late Neolithic. This is further underlined by the fact that this is the only region of the study area where red slate is used to make narrow projectile points, a type seems to have operated largely in the functional sphere. This is implied by the fact that narrow points are predominantly found at settlements. The concentration of red slate cannot be interpreted on the basis of the ethnographic model.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 1998. , 182 p.
Aun, ISSN 0284-1347 ; 25
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-818ISBN: 91-506-1312-XOAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-818DiVA: diva2:170593
Public defence
1999-01-15, Gustavianum, Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:00
Available from: 1998-12-25 Created: 1998-12-25Bibliographically approved

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