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När makten blev synlig: senmedeltid i södra Dalarna
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2005 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
When power became visible : The late Middle Ages in southern Dalecarlia (English)
Abstract [en]

The remains of a wooden stronghold and a fortified manor have been found in Hedemora and Husby parishes in southern Dalecarlia, along with a late medieval city and the northernmost monastery in Sweden. They all stem from the period between about 1350 and 1500. These buildings are the focus of this thesis, which attempts to explore why the architectural expressions from this era are found in these forms and in this region. Can one speak of feudalism and a feudal culture in Dalecarlia and north of Dalälven? The theoretical framework is based on the studies of power, culture, consent, and domination presented by Pierre Bourdieu and Antonio Gramsci, and the methodology draws on the work of Matthew Johnson on medieval castles and houses .

The stronghold of Grådönäset on the Badelunda esker was excavated in the 1960s, but it was never thoroughly published. During the excavations, two layers of medieval habitation were found. The first layer, which was not fortified, was a secluded farm of log timbered houses covered with wattle and daub. An extensive array of armor, arrowheads, and spurs as well as ordinary domestic utensils was found. The second layer was more architectonically elaborated, with three moats dug though the esker and three plateaus erected from the spare boulders. A large main building and ten other houses were built on the plateaus, together with drawbridges, stairs, and palisades. The find material was rich and consisted of both ordinary domestic objects and more unusual objects, much like the ones from the first phase. In spite of the structures, the Grådönäset fortress is in this thesis interpreted less as a military fortification than as a social statement and a bridgehead for the introduction of feudalism and royal domination into the region of Dalecarlia.

A fortified manor, Borgaholm, was built close to the fortress at the same time. It was used as the private palace for the bailiff, and served as an arena for his aspirations to nobility. The manor was built on an islet in the Dalälven River, with boulders from the nearby stronghold of Grådönäset. The architecture was very different, but the material culture was similar. Both places were most probably abandoned at the same time around the turn of 14th century. The establishment of royal administration in the region of Dalecarlia led to the foundation of the city of Hedemora, largely as a result of the explicit interest of the Crown.

At the same time, at the beginning at the end of the 14th century, a class of nobility was established in the region and became the allies of the Crown, thereby forming, in Gramsci’s terms, a hegemonic bloc. The foremost of these noble families was the Hjorthorn family. They expanded the number of their estates, and in the late of 15th century bequeathed all of it for the purpose of erecting a Cistercian monastery in Dalecarlia. This bequest was more than a mere act of religious piety—it also strengthened the cultural hegemonic positions of the nobility.

Together, these historical events led to a division in the region, creating a more feudalized part in the mining district in southern Dalecarlia and a more egalitarian part in the north around the Lake of Siljan. This thesis argues that this process can be seen as a success for the victors in the feudal system, and that the swiftness of this process was the result of the historical discontinuity between the Iron Age and the early Middle Ages. The process changed the region radically, and the results can still be seen today in the landscape.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur , 2005. , 238 p.
Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, ISSN 0349-4128 ; 36
Keyword [en]
Late Middle Ages, hegemony, discontinuity, Dalecarlia, Sweden, castles, fortified manors, urbanization, Cistercian monasteries, feudalism, class culture
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-654ISBN: 91-7-155-099OAI: diva2:196626
Public defence
2005-10-07, föreläsningssalen, Botanicum, Lilla Frescativägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00
Available from: 2005-09-15 Created: 2005-09-15Bibliographically approved

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