“Young and fresh” – environmental history of settlements during 3000 years in Sweden’s latest region through land uplift, south-east Sweden

Document identifier: oai:dalea.du.se:2643
Keyword: Gamla Uppsala, Palaeoecology, Sediments, Environmental history, Iron Age, Archaeology, Geologiska och miljöhistoriska undersökningar genom palaeoentomologiska analyser längs ny motorväg (E4) mellan Uppsala och Tierp, Uppland, sydöstra Sverige
Publication year: 2007
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 15 Life on landSDG 11 Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 3 Good health and wellbeing
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by OSDG.ai


Old Uppsala (“Gamla Uppsala”) is one of the most famous and important prehistorically sites in Sweden, supposed to have been location for strong power and maybe a pagan temple. The site is especially famous for its three big grave mounds (600th century) situated on the glaciofluvial esker running through the area. Several archaeological excavations have taken place here and this paper presents an interdisciplinary project in the area with the aim to investigate the environmental history of the area during prehistorically time. Sampling where collected in a smaller depression in the area, that primarily had been a smaller swamp, trough a coring transects for sediment, insect, pollen and diatom analysis. The landscape around Old Uppsala is characterised by the processes during last glaciation and its melting phase and the processes during the land uplift. This south-east region is the youngest in Sweden and was the last parts to come up through land uplift after the end of the last glaciation. The topography of Old Uppsala is characterised by glaciofluvial esker running through the site. The highest parts of this esker (25 m.a.s.l.) rose above sea level around 2900 years ago, together with small heights of bedrock and till and the results from the analysis points to open wood land and probably with an early grazing culture in the area. The area was occupied as soon as it was raised above sea level. About 2500 years ago, the sampling site became a small isolated water filled depression because of the land uplift and gyttja was deposited on the bottom. In time it developed to a small alder marsh and the depression was overgrown in the 600th century. At this time an increasing number of fires (charcoal in the air) in the surroundings together with human impact and cultivation, show that the human settlement had increased rapidly. The human impact in the form of cultivation and grazing in the area increases to a maximum until 600th century and there are strong indications of grazing on the surrounding esker hills. There are also indications that the depression that changed into an open march with probable hay-making. After the maximum there is a decrease in the impact from cultivation and grazing which probably is a result of changed land use, where earlier cultivated parts were used for the settlement instead. Through this changing land use, there is an increasing land erosion process in the area. As a result almost a meter of clay deposited on the gyttja in the small depression. The grazing activity is though the most stable part of the cultural landscape in Old Uppsala, present through Roman Iron Age (0-400 A.D.), Migration period (400-550 A.D.) and in the beginning of Vendel period (550-800 A.D.). At the beginning of the Viking Age (c. 800 A.D.) there is an increase of the cultivation activities in the area. But there is lacking traces from this period. Coring was performed in a small river bank, north of Old Uppsala, in an attempt to find more sediments representing Viking Age, but it was not possible to core further back in time than late Medieval time.


Magnus Hellqvist

Högskolan Dalarna; Naturgeografi
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