The Bronze Age metalwork in southern Sweden : aspects of social and spatial organization 1800-500 B.C

Abstract: The present work highlights the Bronze Age metalwork in Southern Sweden, deposited c. 1800-500 B.C., found as single finds or in burials and hoards.The main problem (or the questions posed to the metalwork data) has concerned the social context in which the bronze artefacts had their meaning and active function; aspects of social and spatial organization in particular.The metalwork data used for this purpose derive mainly from two sources/publications: Die ältere Metallzeit in Schweden I-II (1974-76) by Andreas Oldeberg and Die regionale und chronologische Einteilung der jüngeren Bronzezeit im Nordischen Kreis (1960) by Evert Baudou.Altogether approximately 5000 bronze artefacts are considered in this study. In order to analyze and interpret structures, patterns and regularities in societal terms in a given set of data, the first necessary procedure has been to define the socio-theoretical position taken. The interpretation of the social contexts in which the metalwork functioned during the Bronze Age is, consequently, a result of data and theory in combination.The analyses carried out by correlation and multivariate techniques indicate significant differences in the distribution of metalwork of various types in different regions in Southern Sweden during the six phases (periods) of the Bronze Age. The large-scale structures identified in this material are discussed in terms of social organization in space, territoriality and systems of exchange. Working with the Montelian six-period system a diachronic perspective on the processes of change and the regional developments is obtained.To study different principles of organization on a smaller geographical scale, three regional studies are also included (South Scania, Kalmar district, Östergötland) in which the metalwork is complemented by other types of archaeological data from the Bronze Age, such as graves, settlements and rock carvings.These case studies show that spatial patterns and principles of social organization can be inferred from archaeological data, in spite of later disturbances and varying degrees of land exploitation.The results also indicate that bronze artefacts like weapons, ornaments and tools had different functions in society, as utilitarian and/or symbolic objects, in the Swedish regions dealt with here, largely depending on the bronze supply situation and local socio-political conditions.At a general level the spatial distribution of hoard finds from the six chronological phases of the Bronze Age indicates changes in consumption rate of prestige goods, together with considerite differences between the regions under study.It appears as if the social conditions were in a state or rapid change during the last centuries of the Bronze Age, particularly in East and Central Sweden; a transformation of society portending the "dark" Pre-Roman Iron Age of Scandinavia.