Frands Herschend: The Early Iron Age in South Scandinavia. Social order in settlement and landscape.
This book is the first of hopefully two eventually to be produced within
the project The Late Iron Age in South Scandinavia – A Historical Anthropology,
sponsored by The Swedish Research Council. As a point of
departure for such a project, it may seem odd to start by writing a book about
the seven or eight centuries that took society to the second part of the first millennium
CE and the period focussed by the project. Nevertheless, so great is the
need for synthesis in Scandinavian Archaeology that only on the basis of an
overall understanding of EIA society can that of LIA and VA be properly understood.
In order to be able to draw what I believe to be the essential conclusion
about the change in society during the middle of the first millennium CE, I
have focussed on the understanding of the landscape, and the way landscape
was used in prehistoric times. These conclusions are cardinal because the second
book is supposed to discuss the mentality of the LIA and the way it brought
acculturation and Christianity into society before the arrival of the Church, i.e.
before the renaissance period of the Viking Age that brought back Roman influence
to South Scandinavia. In my opinion, as well as in that of many others,
understanding the mid millennium holds the key to understanding LIA and VA.
I have presented several smaller parts of the present work at conferences or
seminars but also developed a couple of themes into freestanding post doctoral
projects. In these projects I have discussed a number of points with a number of
colleagues not least Drs Svante Fischer, John Ljungkvist, Svante Norr and Helena
Victor and graves most of all not least with Anna Gatti. I relayed at an
early stage on Birgit Arrhenius and Bo Gräslund as critical readers of the manuscript.
Considering the number of not-quite-finished manuscript, they must
have read during their professional careers, I am grateful for the effort they have
made to point out the many things that could be improved. The English in this
book is Scandinavian, but much less so after Elisabet Green’s revision of the
Visiting Egypt 2002 with a number of junior researchers in Egyptology, Dr
Sofia Häggman introduced me to the Siwa oasis and the Director of Schools
and Chairman of the Heritage Committee Abdallah Baghi. When showed
around in the Siwan landscape by Sofia Häggman its sites and the structural
similarities between peripheral Roman Period Siwa and the equally peripheral
Roman Iron Age Öland became apparent. Eventually, thanks to Siwan hospitality
this similarity structured an essential part of the research project behind this
In an archaeological synthesis, we expect the general outline to be correct or
at least a fruitful generalisation. Detail, regional difference as well as lack of
synchronous change may be as essential as the overall change, but similar to
overriding cultural and epistemological concepts such as Christianity, which is
by no means a coherent phenomenon, there is much to gain from a common
perspective as well as a lot to depart from and refute. It is not obvious e.g. that
modern science would have developed the way it did had it not been for the
doubt and social order created by Christianity. This book therefore is a typical
synthesis because it tries to find a common pattern where one might as well
brace oneself with detailed observation, nullifying source criticism or a safely
limited perspective. Writing a synthesis therefore, it can only be hoped that
others too will find the explanatory force of the general perspective worthwhile.