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  • 1.
    Alfsdotter, Clara
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.
    Bad Death at Sandby borg: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of Intergroup Violence and Postmortem Agency of Unburied Corpses2018Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    The subject of corpses from mass violence is surprisingly unexplored, even though the materiality of the corpse carries strong symbolic capital in conflicts. The aim of my PhD research is to create new knowledge about the implications of unburied corpses that stem from intergroup conflicts, and subsequently to add knowledge concerning how intergroup violence is organised to achieve desired social agendas.

    In the licentiate thesis presented here, I research the conditions for postmortem agency and how treatment of corpses can be studied in prehistory, specifically through the material remains of unburied corpses from the Sandby borg massacre. The Sandby borg case study is explored through a bioarchaeological perspective. Inside the Iron Age ringfort, the remains of at least 26 individuals have been recovered hitherto. Several of the dead display traces of lethal intergroup violence. By integrating osteology, archaeology, taphonomy and social theories, I show how bioarchaeological research can contribute to the understanding of past postmortem agency in relation to intergroup violence as a social process. The thesis is comprised of four articles.

  • 2.
    Alfsdotter, Clara
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.
    Social implications of unburied corpses from intergroup conflicts: postmortem agency following the Sandby borg massacre2019In: Cambridge Archaeological Journal, ISSN 0959-7743, E-ISSN 1474-0540, Vol. 29, no 3, p. 427-442Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    A massacre took place inside the Sandby borg ringfort, southeast Sweden, at the end of the fifth century. The victims were not buried, but left where they died. In order to understand why the corpses were left unburied, and how they were perceived following the violent event, a theoretical framework is developed and integrated with the results of osteological analysis. I discuss the contemporary normative treatment of the dead, social response to death and postmortem agency with emphasis on intergroup conflict and ‘bad death’. The treatment of the dead in Sandby borg deviates from known contemporary practices. I am proposing that leaving the bodies unburied might be viewed as an aggressive social action. The corpses exerted postmortem agency to the benefit of the perpetrators, at the expense of the victims and their sympathizers. The gain for the perpetrators was likely political power through redrawing the victim's biographies, spatial memory and the social and territorial landscape. The denial of a proper death likely led to shame, hindering of regeneration and an eternal state of limbo.

  • 3.
    Alfsdotter, Clara
    et al.
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.
    Kjellström, Anna
    Stockholm University, Sweden.
    The Sandby Borg Massacre: Interpersonal Violence and the Demography of the Dead2019In: European Journal of Archaeology, ISSN 1461-9571, E-ISSN 1741-2722, Vol. 22, no 2, p. 210-231Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    During excavations of the Iron Age ringfort of Sandby borg (ad 400-550), the remains of twenty-six unburied bodies were encountered inside and outside the buildings. The skeletons and the archaeological record indicate that after the individuals had died the ringfort was deserted. An osteological investigation and trauma analysis were conducted according to standard anthropological protocols. The osteological analysis identified only men, but individuals of all ages were represented. Eight individuals (31 per cent) showed evidence of perimortem trauma that was sharp, blunt, and penetrating, consistent with interpersonal violence. The location of the bodies and the trauma pattern appear to indicate a massacre rather than a battle. The 'efficient trauma' distribution (i.e. minimal but effective violence), the fact that the bodies were not manipulated, combined with the archaeological context, suggest that the perpetrators were numerous and that the assault was carried out effectively. The contemporary sociopolitical situation was seemingly turbulent and the suggested motive behind the massacre was to gain power and control.

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