Department of Archaeology and Ancient History

Birgitta Leppänen Sjöberg

Birgitta L. Sjöberg is a researcher in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University. Her present research interest is aspects of gender and other identities, within the concept of the Greek oikos,and special focus on long-term changes such as displayed in the transformation from the Archaich to the Classical period.She also has a special interest in the economic dynamics and interaction of the Aegean Late Bronze Age and the transformation to the Iron Age.

My current research focus on a project financed by the Swedish Research Council.


Purpose and aims

The purpose of the present project, financed by the Swedish Research Council is to construct a new model where the ancient Greek oikos, that is the household in the period ca 700-350 B.C, as an extended non-homogenous entity will be focused. The ideal classical family with male as norm has by tradition in texts from Homer to Xenophon been regarded as an entity with common interest in economic enterprise and formed through marital and blood ties, composed by a married couple and their own biological children.

This protection of the bloodline was of major interest for the whole society (Ogden 1997). Just as in the modern context of the American society where blood ties remain significant for the definition of a family (Hill Collins1998).The oikos is a topic that has been rather neglected as concern its value as an important social phenomenon when constructing the ancient society. Instead scholarly interest of the oikos, as a site for social relations, has by tradition been devoted to questions concerning for example gender specific locations where ancient literature sources has been used to enhance our understanding of the concept. As recently commented by L. Nevett (2010) studies based on literary sources have rarely intersected with studies of the archaeological evidence. The planned project will include and intersect three categories of source material; archaeological remains, the literary sources and iconographical material and will try this further by using archaeological evidence.

The aim of the project is to extend the discussion from the idealised model of the oikos, to a model where the extended oikos, defined as all its members, old-young, women-men, free and unfree, are included, not as has been tradition focus on only gender as an identity. This will be done by applying intersectionality as a research paradigm to problematize the realm of the classical family. Intersectionality, rather than discussing social hierarchies of gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality and age as separate systems of oppression, investigates how they mutually construct one another (Crenshaw 1989; 1991; Hill Collins 1998). Intersectionality can therefore be regarded as an analytical tool for understanding multiple discriminations created by the intersection of different categories and how different sets of identities impact on access to rights and opportunities within the society. For the period focused in this project this will be done through an investigation of the status of the members in the classical family. Each member of the family, free-unfree, men-women, young-old etc., will be focused as individuals from the perspective of intersectionality; within the realm of the household and also how they as individuals intersect with the surrounding society, that is the male dominated, public world of the polis.

Another objective is to analyse the oikos in a long-term perspective. It is believed that a chronological perspective will promote our understanding on whether changing attitudes concerning the status of different members of the oikos, related to the research questions below, is possible to identify from the late archaic to the classical period. Another objective of significance for the present project is the picture of economic stratification as made evident in the housing pattern (Nevett 1995). For now, let it suffice to note that the economic status of the household can be assumed to be of importance as we proceed to applying the paradigm of intersectionality to the material at hand.

The hypothesis that the level of intersectionality within the oikos is connected to the economic status of the house will be made subject to further inquiry. In short, we would expect that intersectionality should be more pronounced within the realm of the wealthier households. This means that the size and spatial complexity of a house cause intersectionality to vary. Specific questions to be analysed is related, for example, to how different scenarios of gender and sexuality may be understood in more detail when also other identities such as ethnic, class and age are included as intersecting parameters.For example, ethnic women and their status and treatment, rape and domestic violence within the frame of the oikos etc.Finally, it is believed that this approach to highlight intersectionality within the classical oikos will demonstrate the relevance of these problems for both the ancient and the modern society. The project will therefore also include a final comparative study where the concept of the classical family will be compared with the values encompassing the modern family.


My main focus has for a long time been the Late Bronze Age and more specifically the Greek Mainland. Together with colloquies I have organised several workshops on the theme ‘Production and Trade’ at the Swedish Insitute, Athens. These workshop are all published.

In 2001 I defended my thesis ‘Asine and the Argolid in the Late Helladic III Period. A socio-economic study (published in BAR International Series 1225, 2004).The book discusses the centralisation and control of the Mycenaean economy. The economy and society of the Late Bronza Age has been by tradition been regarded as a strict centralised system controller by the palaces—based on the model of substantivism associated primarily with K. Polanyi. The substantivistic paradigm emphasises the social embeddedness of most economic formations. The substantivistic school was/is opposed by the formalists- those who emphasises the universal nature of rational economic behaviour. The economy of the LBA Greece as presented in earlier models by Bintliff and Kilian are discussed. A comparison of the proposed models and the market-place model by G.W. Skinner- resulted in an alternative model presented in the final discussion.

Pottery as a group of material is interesting as a medium to discuss economy and interaction. Together with Professor Hans Mommsen I have analysed pottery from Sinda, now published. “The importance of the ‘best relative fit factor’ when evaluating elemental concentration data of pottery demonstrated with Mycenaean sherds from Sinda, Cyprus”. H. Mommsen & B.L. Sjöberg, Archaeometry 49,2007, 359-371.We have also samples of pottery from Asine analysed with NAA, that is work I progress.

Since my dissertation I have redirected some of my research interest to the Classical period and the Greek family, see current research. I also participate in a planned project on ‘The changing face of age and ageing in the Greco-Roman world: 600 BC–AD 300´, together with colleagues from University of Gothenburg. I am part of several networks with focus on gender studies, ARACHNE and FoGA.


I am teaching all levels, undergraduate education and master, at the department of Archaeology and Ancient History Uppsala, and have also been teaching at the University of Stockholm and University of Gothenburg. I have a great interest in developing new courses and new didactic methods. The project, ‘An intersectionality perspective on the Classical world.Intersectionality Tool-Box.Pedagogical and methodological toolbox for intersectionality studies within Classical Archaeology’, was financed by The Swedish Agency for Networks and Cooperation in Higher Education Network (NSHU). ITB = http://www.arkeologi.uu.se_copy/Forskning/Projektarkiv/Intersectionality/.


1. Asine and the Argolid in the Late Helladic III period: A socio-economic study, Uppsala 2001. (Unpublished diss.)

2. Asine and the Argolid in the Late Helladic III period: A socio-economic study, British Archaeological Reports 1225, Oxford 2004.


3. ”A Ptolemaic marble head in the possession of Uppsala University”, OpAth, 17, 1988, 225-228.

4.”The pottery frequency fluctuations in Late Helladic tombs: a case study of three LH III sites in the Argolid”, Celebrations of Death and Divinity in the Bronze Age Argolid, Proceedings of the Sixth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 11-13 June, 1988 (ActaAth4°, 40), Red. R. Hägg och G.C. Nordquist, Stockholm 1990, 65-67.

5. ”The Mycenaean economy: theoretical frameworks”, i Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Aspects of Trade. Proceedings of the Third international workshop, Athens 1993, Red. C. Gillis, C. Risberg och B. Sjöberg, Jonsered, 1995, 19-32.

6. ”Five Mycenaean vases from Zafer Aga”, Asine III, Supplementary Studies on the Swedish Excavations 1922-1930, Fasc. 1, Red. R. Hägg, G.C. Nordquist och B. Wells, Stockholm1997, 101-110.

7. ”Two possible Late Helladic kilns at Asine: a research note”, i Trade and Production: Aspects of Production. Proceedings of the 4th and 5th international workshops, Athens 1994 and 1995, Red. C. Gillis, C. Risberg och B. Sjöberg, Jonsered, 1997, 89-100.

8. ”A steelyard weight in the Gustavianum collections”, Boreas 22, 1993, 95-97.

9. ”Settlement activity at the Late Helladic Asine, Argolid”, OpAth, 28, 2003, 185-201.

”Mannens heder kvinnans skam: attityder till våldtäkt och äktenskapsbrott i det klassiska Aten", i Nytänkande och eftertankar. Kön, kulturella föreställningar och livsvillkor, Eds. M. Zackariasson & B. Meurling, Etnolore 29, Uppsala, 2006.

10. “The importance of the ‘best relative fit factor’ when evaluating elemental concentration data of pottery demonstrated with Mycenaean sherds from Sinda, Cyprus”. H. Mommsen & B.L.Sjöberg, Archaeometry 49,2007, 359-371.

11.”Economic interaction on the Argive Plain: a research note on Late Helladic Asine”, i New Research on Old Material from Asine and Berbati in Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Swedish Institute at Athens, (ActaAth8º, 17), Red, B. Wells, Stockholm, 2002, 57-69.

12. ‘Liveable landscapes in prehistoric Greece. Socio-environmental interaction and change’, in The Urban Mind. Cultural and Environmental Dynamics, E. Weiberg, M. Lindblom,B.L. Sjöberg, Gullög Nordquist, in Studies in Global Archaeology 15, eds. P.J.J. Sinclair, G. Nordquist, F. Herschend & C. Isendahl, Västerås 2010, 149-194. 

13. 'More than Just Gender: The Classical Oikos as a Site of Intersectionality' in Families in the Greco-Roman World,(Series: The family in Antiquity) eds. R. Laurence & A. Strömberg, London 2012, 48-59.

14. ’Intersektionalitet i ett antikhistoriskt perspektiv. Gör det skillnad?’, i Institutionens historier. En vänbok till Gullög Nordquist, red. Erika Weiberg, Susanne Carlsson & Gunnel Ekroth, Ödeshög 2013.

15. ‘The Greek Oikos: A Space for Interaction, Revisited and Reconsidered’, BOREAS, 35, 2014, to be published.


16. Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Aspects of Trade. Proceedings of the third international workshop, Athens 1993. Red. . C. Gillis, C. Risberg och B. Sjöberg, Jonsered, 1995.

17. Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Production and the Craftsmen. Proceedings of the 4th and 5th international workshops, Athens 1994 and 1994. Red. C. Gillis, C. Risberg ochB. Sjöberg, Jonsered, 1997.

18. Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Acquisition and Distribution of Raw Materials and Finished Products. Proceedings of the 6th International Workshop, Athens 1996. Red. C. Gillis, C. Risberg och B. Sjöberg, Jonsered, 2000.

19.Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Crossing Borders, Proceedings of the 7th , 8th and 9th International Workshop, Athens 1997-1999.Red. C. Gillis och B. Sjöberg,Jonsered 2008.


20. ’Pedagogisk och metodologisk verktygslåda för intersektionalitesstudier inom antikämnet’. Rapport till NSHU, november 2008.

21. Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia vid Uppsala Universitet: Förslag på ny webbsida.Av Birgitta L. Sjöberg & Anneli Sundkvist,Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia vid Uppsala Universitet, juni 2008.