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Barshalder 1: A cemetery in Grötlingbo and Fide parishes, Gotland, Sweden, c. AD 1-1100. Excavations and finds 1826-1971
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The prehistoric cemetery of Barshalder is located along the main road on the boundary between Grötlingbo and Fide parishes, near the southern end of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The cemetery was used from c. AD 1-1100.

The level of publication in Swedish archaeology of the first millennium AD is low compared to, for instance, the British and German examples. Gotland’s rich Iron Age cemeteries have long been intensively excavated, but few have received monographic treatment. This publication is intended to begin filling this gap and to raise the empirical level of the field. It also aims to make explicit and test the often somewhat intuitively conceived results of much previous research. The analyses deal mainly with the Migration (AD 375–540), Vendel (AD 520–790) and Late Viking (AD 1000–1150) Periods.

The following lines of inquiry have been prioritised.

1. Landscape history, i.e. placing the cemetery in a landscape-historical context. (Vol. 1, section 2.2.6)

2. Migration Period typochronology, i.e. the study of change in the grave goods. (Vol. 2, chapter 2)

3. Social roles: gender, age and status. (Vol. 2, chapter 3)

4. Religious identity in the 11th century, i.e. the study of religious indicators in mortuary customs and grave goods, with particular emphasis on the relationship between Scandinavian paganism and Christianity.. (Vol. 2, chapter 4)

Barshalder is found to have functioned as a central cemetery for the surrounding area, located on peripheral land far away from contemporary settlement, yet placed on a main road along the coast for maximum visibility and possibly near a harbour. Computer supported correspondence analysis and seriation are used to study the gender attributes among the grave goods and the chronology of the burials. New methodology is developed to distinguish gender-neutral attributes from transgressed gender attributes. Sub-gender grouping due to age and status is explored. An independent modern chronology system with rigorous type definitions is established for the Migration Period of Gotland. Recently published chronology systems for the Vendel and Viking Periods are critically reviewed, tested and modified to produce more solid models. Social stratification is studied through burial wealth with a quantitative method, and the results are tested through juxtaposition with several other data types.

The Late Viking Period graves of the late 10th and 11th centuries are studied in relation to the contemporary Christian graves at the churchyards. They are found to be symbolically soft-spoken and unobtrusive, with all pagan attributes kept apart from the body in a space between the feet of the deceased and the end of the over-long inhumation trench. A small number of pagan reactionary graves with more forceful symbolism are however also identified. The distribution of different 11th century cemetery types across the island is used to interpret the period’s confessional geography, the scale of social organisation and the degree of allegiance to western and eastern Christianity. 11th century society on Gotland is found to have been characterised by religious tolerance, by an absence of central organisation and by slow piecemeal Christianisation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur , 2003. , 251 p.
Stockholm Archaelogical Reports, ISSN 1101-3087 ; 40
Keyword [en]
Barshalder, Grötlingbo, Fide, Gotland, cemetery, graves, burial, Iron Age, Roman Iron Age, Migration Period, Vendel Period, Viking Period, landscape history, gender, typology, chronology, seriation, correspondence analysis, social stratification, status, religion, paganism, Christianity, Christianisation
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-271ISBN: 91-631-3530-2OAI: diva2:191783
Public defence
2003-09-18, hörsal 8, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2003-08-28 Created: 2003-08-28Bibliographically approved

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