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Dietary Patterns and Social Structures in Medieval Sigtuna, Sweden as reflected in Stable Isotope Values in Human Skeletal Remains
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities. Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2009 (English)In: Journal of Archaeological Science, ISSN 0305-4403, E-ISSN 1095-9238, Vol. 36, 2689-2699 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 36, 2689-2699 p.
Keyword [en]
isotoper medeltid diet social status
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-23939DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.08.007ISI: 000271796600010OAI: diva2:195950
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-603Available from: 2011-05-26 Created: 2005-08-09 Last updated: 2011-05-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Urban Farmer: Osteoarchaeological Analysis of Skeletons from Medieval Sigtuna Interpreted in a Socioeconomic Perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Urban Farmer: Osteoarchaeological Analysis of Skeletons from Medieval Sigtuna Interpreted in a Socioeconomic Perspective
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

At the end of the 10th century the first Swedish town Sigtuna was founded, which can be recognized as the beginning of urbanization in the Mälaren valley. Christianity was growing strong and the administrative power was probably concentrated to a few magnates gathered around a king. Though, Sigtuna played an important religious and political role, the time of prosperity was short and at the end of the 13th-early 14th century the importance of the town declined. The ambition with the present thesis has been to investigate the demography of the human skeletal material excavated in Sigtuna during the period 1983-1999. The skeletons from 528 individuals from six cemeteries dated to the end of 10th century to the early 16th century have been analysed. The material was subdivided into three chronological development phases synonymous with the establishment, the peak of prosperity and the decline of the town. Well-recognized anthropological techniques were applied together with a health index and chemical tests such as stable isotopes and trace elements. The main aims were to investigate: 1) differences in the material between contemporary inhabitants in Sigtuna, 2) differences in the material between the different chronological phases, 3) differences between the osteological results achieved from Sigtuna and results from other skeletal materials and 4) if the results can be connected to the indications of urbanization. The results showed that:

- Some differences between contemporary cemeteries are discernable. Variations in stable isotopes suggest dietary differences between the women at different cemeteries. Furthermore, differences in age- and sex distribution, and mean stature are discernable between some of the contemporary samples and even within a cemetery. The discrepancies may be related to prevailing social structures in Sigtuna.

- A decline in health through time is demonstrated. The negative trend is particularly marked for women. In addition demographic changes suggest an increased migration of adults to Sigtuna. The health deterioration may be connected to e.g. increased population density and an increased risk of infections.

- In comparison with other materials the anthropological results, including the health index, suggests that the inhabitants in Sigtuna showed an urban pattern and that the quality of life, at least in the initial phase, was relatively good.

- The sex distribution shows a generally male dominance possibly caused by selective excavations except at the oldest site without an adherent church. The uneven sex distribution may, alternatively, be a result of the urban character of Sigtuna i.e. a Christian and political administrative centre.

The osteological results are in line with the archaeological and historical data. It is suggested that the consequences of urbanization such as immigration, deterioration of health and social ranking, implied by several osteological parameters and the chemical analysis, acted differently through the gender lines.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, 2005. 136 p.
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098 ; 2
urbanization, health index, Middle Ages, sex distribution, age distribution, dietary patterns
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urn:nbn:se:su:diva-603 (URN)91-7155-098-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-09-02, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00

Revised 2014.

Available from: 2005-08-09 Created: 2005-08-09 Last updated: 2014-01-21Bibliographically approved

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Kjellström, Anna
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