Det Gamla Uppsala: Berättelser & Metamorfoser

Alkarp, Magnus

Ancient Uppsala is a most versatile place. At various times it has sated all types of scholar, nourished every kind of ideology, and fed all forms of doubt. Portrayals of the site have almost exclusively been made at times when it was necessary to define the relationship between the people and the elite, the elite and the Crown, or the Crown and the Church. These narratives take many forms – ancient myths, missionary tales, stories of princely power play, the struggle for social integration in early modern Sweden, or tales about absolute royal power, the free peasant, the oppressed serf, centralism, or the manipulation of history. Uppsala, almost without exception, was the stage on which vital scenes of this kind were played out. This type of narrative, of which there is no shortage, is the main focus of this thesis. It aims to analyse how the image of Viking Age and medieval Uppsala was formed and has changed at various times, to follow the threads of discussion, and to place ideas pertaining to the site in their historical and intellectual context. The thesis sheds light on two periods in particular: the Gothism of the seventeenth century, and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the latter period characterized by nationalism, racial biology, and political extremism.

The dreams (and nightmares) of scholars are contrasted with the Gamla Uppsala of reality. Abundant archive material readily allows us to follow the nature of daily life in Gamla Uppsala parish, and to analyse how its inhabitants protected themselves from the material and spiritual destruction of the site. Today, the most significant archaeological observations are often made in the archive, where ‘ancient’ remains are frequently reappraised as relatively mundane products of the more recent past.