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Med älgen i huvudrollen: Om fångstgropar, hällbilder och skärvstensvallar i mellersta Norrland
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2011 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Staging the elk : On pitfalls, rock art and mounds of burnt stone in northernmost Sweden (English)
Abstract [en]

The importance of the elk (Alces alces) in the Stone Age societies of northern Sweden constitutes the major focus of this thesis. The point of departure is a simple but crucial observation: this animal is the common denominator between the three stationary types of remains known in this region from the period 4000-1800 BC. Here, I refer to the pit falls, the rock art sites, and the mounds of burnt stone. Pit falls have been used for trapping elks, and can be found on the migration trails that have been used by these animals for thousands of years. On the rock art sites, the elk constitutes the most frequently depicted motif, and the mounds of burnt stones contain extremely large quantities of elk bones.

If the elk had not held a central position in the life world of prehistoric people in the northern Swedish region of Norrland, these archaeological materials would certainly have had a different appearance. I claim that it is the significance of this animal that has led to, and shaped, the emergence of these material remains.

In this study the overall importance of the elk is investigated. My main question is how the elk’s significance affected the prehistoric societies of Norrland. I found that the elk’s material remains led to a range of consequences. The pit falls, rock art sites and mounds of burnt stone tied the prehistoric people to certain areas in the landscape. However, at the same time, these remains required to be constantly in transformation to be usable. Pit falls, for example, have to be re-digged in order to at all function as traps for big game.

The conceptual dichotomy between permanence and change can be traced in the ways in which the elk motif at the rock art site at Nämforsen was altered. The elk figures are depicted with either straight or angled legs. I interpret this variation as an indication of the fact that the elk motif functioned as a key symbol – a motif that is able to express a range of meanings when it becomes altered and varied.

The emergence of depicting the opposition between mobility and permanence tells us that the Stone Age societies had problems uniting these two concepts. I interpret this as signifying that these hunter-gatherers became aware of the “Neolithic aspects” of their own social structure.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Instutitionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur, Stockholms universitet , 2011. , 255 p.
Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, ISSN 0349-4128 ; 55
Keyword [en]
Stone Age, Northern Sweden, Nämforsen, rock art, pit falls, mounds of burnt stone, affordances, James J. Gibsson, chronology, theories of meaning, key symbols, neolithisation
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-63763ISBN: 978-91-7447-396-4OAI: diva2:455113
Public defence
2011-12-16, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2011-11-24 Created: 2011-10-28 Last updated: 2011-11-16Bibliographically approved

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