Contesting Marginality: The Boreal Forest of Inland Scandinavia and the Worlds Outside, AD – 1500 AD

Project director: Karl-Johan Lindholm

Project abstract

The main objective of this project is to understand the role of Scandinavia’s forested inland in the larger historical developments that took place in northern Europe in the Iron Age and the Middle Ages (AD–1500 AD). Current research indicates that an increasing amount of goods from the forested region accumulated in the early central places, discoveries that challenge conventional understandings of the inland region. These discoveries also point out a knowledge gap this project will address; how did the people in the forested inland
structure their communities, landscapes and relations with the surrounding world?


The proposed project will address these issues by drawing upon a theoretical framework of niche construction, landscape domestication and entanglement, and by studying relict hotspots of biocultural heritage, which are visible remains of past
practices in the landscape, in archaeological sites, in place names and as responses in the forests vegetation and soils.

The project will challenge a prevailing view on the forested inland as marginal and situated outside the historical developments of Scandinavia. We forward the hypothesis that from early first millennium AD innovative, active and knowledgeable communities of the forested inland were socially and economically integrated into systems of trade and interaction with the worlds outside, which in turn became crucial components for Viking Age and early medieval state formation processes and early urbanisation.


Hatlestad, K., Wehlin, J.; Lindholm, K.-J. (2021). Coping with Risk. A Deep-Time Perspective on Societal Responses to Ecological Uncertainty in the River Dalälven Catchment Area and Sweden. Land, 10, 883.

Eddudóttir, S.D., Svensson, E., Nilsson, S. et al. (2021). The history of settlement and agrarian land use in a boreal forest in Värmland, Sweden, new evidence from pollen analysis. Veget Hist Archaeobot 30, 759–771.

Eriksson, O. (2020). Origin and Development of Managed Meadows in Sweden: A Review. Rural Landscapes: Society, Environment, History, 7(1): 2, 1–23. DOI:

Eriksson, O., Arnell, M.; Lindholm, K.-J. (2021) Historical Ecology of Scandinavian Infield Systems. Sustainability, 13, 817.

Lindholm, K-J., Ersmark, E., Hennius, A., Lindgren, S. and E. Svensson. 2021. Contesting Marginality: The Boreal Forest of Middle Scandinavia and the Worlds Outside. In: Symes, C. (ed.) Pp 9–35. The Global North: Spaces, Connections, and Networks from the Iron Age to 1650. The Medieval Globe 7.1

Lindholm, K-J. & A. Ekblom. 2019. A framework for exploring and managing biocultural heritage. Anthropocene 25.

Svensson, E. (2019). Crisis or transition? Risk and resilience during the Late Medieval agrarian crisis. In: Brady, N. & C., Theune (ed.), Pp 171–183 Settlement Change Across Medieval Europe. Old Paradigms and New Vistas. Ruralia XII. Leiden: Sidestone Press

Master theses:

Sakarias Lindgren. 2019. Mötesplatser i fångstmarken: en rumslig studie av praktiker och kontaktnätverk i norra Mellanskandinavien under järnåldern

Erik Nygren Wåhlin. 2020. Makt, rikedomar och kontakter - en rumslig analys av svärd i norra Sverige

John Lind. 2021. Investigating catchwork water-meadows as a social-ecological conservation opportunity with focus on Jämtland

Alexandra Cochrane. 2021. Identifying and Situating the Medieval Ragundaskogen: A Tale of Forest, Fish and Farmers

Petter I. Larsson. 2021. Continuous Presence: A Historical Ecology of Ängesviken, Jämtland

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Last modified: 2022-01-11