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Stenbärarna: Kult och rituell praktik i skandinavisk bronsålder
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.
2011 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis sets out to discuss the Bronze Age cosmology in Scandinavia, based on the results from the investigations at Nibble outside Enköping in Uppland. The excavations were carried out in 2007 and revealed extensive remains of a ritual place with burials, cult houses and food preparation areas. In addition, hundreds of cupmarks and two ship rock carvings were found. The cult place was constructed by moving stones around, gathering them into stone settings, stone walls and heaps of fire-cracked stones. The importance of the stones as cosmological entities is established through this special and deliberate treatment. Nature is transformed into culture. The cult place was established in connection with the construction of a large stone setting at the top of a hillock. Cremated and crushed bones of a man had been placed centrally in the construction, and close by, several cult houses had been erected, complemented by a food preparation area, where sacrificial meals were prepared and eaten.


In many cases, stone settings and heaps of fire-cracked stones are used in similar manners. At a settlement site close to the cult place, there was a heap of fire-cracked stones that contained the cremated bones of a young woman. It had been specially constructed for her burial and contained layers of coal and fire-cracked stones from several cremation pyres. The border between what is a burial and what is not is hard to define. The burnt bones of the dead were handled in much the same way as the burnt stone. They were burnt and crushed, ground to a powder, and restored to the earth. The use of stones in connection with fire and water (and smoke) suggests the existence of a system built on the four elements: stone (earth), fire, water and air. In addition, the existence of a tripartite universe is suggested. Stone settings (and some of the heaps of fire-cracked stones) were constructed as portals to the underground, and the smoke from the funeral pyres was the means of transport to the heaven above.  During the Early Bronze Age, the functions of the warrior and the shaman were often carried out by the same individual. During the Late Bronze Age, however, the functions of the warrior and the shaman seem to have been separated.


The separation of the ritual functions show that a change in ritual practice and cosmology occurred some time in the middle of the Bronze Age. A complete cosmological change was probably not involved, and many older rituals were still carried out in the Late Bronze Age. The relationship between the four elements remained the same, and the treatment of stone in particular remained unchanged. The connection between stone and bone still prevailed, as did the crushing and grinding.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala universitet , 2011. , 308 p.
Occasional papers in archaeology, ISSN 1100-6358 ; 55
Keyword [en]
Bronze Age, cult place, ritual practice, cosmology, divine twins, shaman warrior
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-158102ISBN: 978-91-506-2223-2OAI: diva2:438025
Public defence
2011-09-24, Geijersalen, Campus Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2011-09-02 Created: 2011-08-31 Last updated: 2011-09-23

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