Sunday, April 7, 2013

Investigating Bronze Age stone ships on Gotland

Ship Stones in Gannarve, Gotland. Image: Jerzy Kociatkiewicz 
(Flickr, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the middle of the Bronze Age, around 1000 BCE, the quantity of metal artefacts traded in the Baltic Sea region increased dramatically. Around that same time, a new type of monument appeared along the coasts; stones set on edge and arranged in the form of ships, built by the maritime culture involved in that same metal trade.

A wide maritime network

These Bronze Age maritime groups were part of a network that extended across large parts of northern Europe and with links further to the south: a network maintained due to the increasing dependence on bronze and other important raw materials as a means of social status and cultural dependency.

Archaeologists have long assumed that bronze was imported to Scandinavia from the south, and recent analyses has now confirmed this hypothesis. However, the people who conducted the trade and formed the networks are rarely addressed, not to mention the locations of where they met.

‘One reason why the meeting places of the Bronze Age are not discussed very often is that we have been unable to find them. Which is in contrast to the trading centres of the [later] Viking Age, which have been easy to locate due to the wealth of archaeological material that was left behind,’ says the author of the thesis Joakim Wehlin from the University of Gothenburg and Gotland University.

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