Investigating Early Iron Age society and its organisation in the province of Östergötland

During the last five years I have conducted a project aiming at investigating Early Iron Age society and its organisation in the province of Östergötland, from a local and regional perspective. I analyse the individual farms focusing on aspects such as lay-out of the farm’s built area (gårdstun) and it’s architecture, the economy of the farm and the land-use. About 50 farms and ca 175 longhouses from the Early Iron Age and Migration Period (ca 500 BC – AD 550) have so far been excavated.

In an already partly published case-study of the Linköping area in middle Östergötland, I have noted that the places in the landscape where the farm buildings were erected, often was not an unknown place chosen at random. Rather it was a well- known place that was already known an identified – a focal place in the grazing-landscape. In the late Bronze Age and Pre Roman grazing system a well- organized grazing system with herders and dogs has been previously identified in the region. This manner of choosing the location for the new farm has been identified also in other parts of the region.

Analysing different sites I have also looked into the lifespan of the individual houses, a topic often discussed. In the Norrköping area, in northern östergötland, the lifetime of a house seems to have been rather short. Helene Borna Ahlkvist (2003) has proposed a lifetime for a Bronze Age house of 25 – 30 years, based on the excavations in Pryssgården, and that a new house was built when there was a change of genereations at a farm. An excavated farm from Pre Roman and Roman Iron Age yielded several building phases and the life time of a house was estimated at 30 – 60 years (Hjulström 2010). Parallels to this short life span are found in Uppland, Sweden but also in Denmark and on the continent (Sjölin, Holst, Herschend Gerritsen). Reasons given are, among others, organization of ownership, systems of inheritance and taboos.

Analysing different sites I have also looked into the lifespan of the individual houses, a topic often discussed. In the Norrköping area, in northern Östergötland, the lifetime of a house seems to have been rather short. Helene Borna Ahlkvist (2003) has proposed a lifetime for a Bronze Age house of 25 – 30 years, based on the excavations in Pryssgården, and that a new house was built when there was a change of generations at a farm. An excavated farm from Pre Roman and Roman Iron Age yielded several building phases and the life time of a house was estimated at 30 – 60 years (Hjulström 2010). Parallels to this short life span are found in Uppland, Sweden but also in Denmark and on the continent (Sjölin, Holst, Herschend Gerritsen). Reasons given are, among others, organization of ownership, systems of inheritance and taboos.