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Patterns of Physical Activity and Material Culture on Gotland, Sweden During the Middle Neolithic
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
Responsible organisation
2010 (English)In: International journal of osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1047-482X, E-ISSN 1099-1212, Vol. 20, no 1, 1-14 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Linking MSM (Musculoskeletal Stress Markers) to specific activities is difficult. This problem is explored by combining and comparing patterns of MSM and material culture. Sex- and age-related patterns for MSM and grave goods distributions are analysed and compared from five Pitted Ware (c. 3400–2300 BC) sites on Gotland, Sweden. Possible links between MSM patterns, burial objects, faunal remains and subsistence are explored for a better understanding of some of the irregularities surrounding the Pitted Ware culture hunter-gatherer complex on Gotland. Fifty-two muscle and ligament attachments on seven skeletal elements were scored on adult skeletal remains (n = 126) from the five Middle Neolithic Pitted Ware sites at Ajvide, Västerbjers, Visby, Ire and Fridtorp. Noteworthy differences were observed in MSM mean scores between the sexes as well as significantly increased scores with increased age. Distributions for ten selected grave goods categories were also examined for the adult individuals as well as for 50 subadult individuals. The grave goods frequencies showed the opposite pattern from that of MSM: young individuals had higher frequencies of the selected grave goods than the old, and females generally more than males. Burial find distributions also differ at the five sites, as well as faunal refuse proportions, while isotopic data indicate homogeneous subsistence all over the island. Circumstances surrounding the faunal remains in graves and surrounding cultural layers indicate site-specific utilisation, but also ritual handling of animals. An image of common identity on the island and membership of the local community is visible in the material culture. In addition, individual differences are apparent through MSM patterns and grave goods, but not in direct correlation to activities implied by the artefacts in the grave.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley & sons inc , 2010. Vol. 20, no 1, 1-14 p.
Keyword [en]
Pitted Ware culture;Sweden;musculoskeletal stress markers;burial goods;grave gifts
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-25392DOI: 10.1002/oa.1000ISI: 000274598300001OAI: diva2:199645
Available from: 2008-09-02 Created: 2008-09-02 Last updated: 2011-02-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Tracing Prehistoric Activities: Life ways, habitual behaviour and health of hunter-gatherers on Gotland
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Tracing Prehistoric Activities: Life ways, habitual behaviour and health of hunter-gatherers on Gotland
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the present thesis, skeletal and dental evidence of physical strain and habitual behaviour has been investigated through musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) and extramasticatory dental wear. The skeletal and dental traits have been examined in relation to health patterns and material culture in order to gain better knowledge of life ways of hunter-gatherers on Gotland with special focus on Pitted Ware culture sites and the Ajvide site in particular. Skeletal assemblages included in the study derive from five Middle Neolithic sites on Gotland (n= 213): Ajvide, Västerbjers, Visby, Ire and Fridtorp; as well as a medieval sample from Sigtuna (n= 343).

Although inferring specific activities from particular skeletal traits is difficult, results imply that archery was performed at Ajvide, and particularly noticeable in males. Further sex and age related differences in MSM and dental wear were observed within as well as between sites, showing that there was a gendered division of labour within the Pitted Ware culture on Gotland. A correlation was furthermore observed between extramasticatory wear and periapi-cal lesions, indicating that habitual behaviour also posed a potential health hazard.

The general health of the hunter-gatherers on Gotland was poorer compared to Medieval Sigtuna, although separate health variables exhibit a more complex image of the patterns of health and activity in these populations signifying the two different ways of life. However, no direct link between physical strain and health status was found. Neither was there a clear association between patterns of eburnation lesions and MSM, although results show that factors other than age should be considered for the onset of osteoarthritis.

The study has shown both skeletal and dental evidence of physical activity and habitual behaviour in the Pitted Ware culture. It has also shown that activity patterns indeed may have consequences for the general health status of a population.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur, 2008. 144 p.
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098 ; 4
Activity-related change, Musculoskeletal Stress Markers, Extramasticatory wear, dental wear, Health index, Pitted Ware culture, Neolithic, Ajvide
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8136 (URN)978-91-7155-613-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-09-19, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2008-09-02 Created: 2008-09-02Bibliographically approved

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Molnar, Petra
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