Gods of High Places and Deep Romantic Chasms

The Pukberget sacrifical cave, Uppland

I recently submitted my contribution to the proceedings volume from the 11th Nordic Bronze Age Symposium. Here’s the manuscript and here’s the abstract:

Gods of High Places and Deep Romantic Chasms
Introductory remarks to a study of the landscape situation of Bronze Age sacrificial sites in the Lake Mälaren area

This paper outlines work in progress with the Bronze Age sacrificial sites of the Lake Mälaren provinces in Sweden. The project’s goals are twofold: a) to understand the landscape rules behind the siting of deposits, and thereby b) to develop a tool-kit that allows scholars to find undisturbed Bronze Age deposits without the aid of farmers, dredgers or ditch diggers.

After closer study of nine sites in Uppland and Södermanland provinces in the field and numerous ones in the archives, I have found that the Bronze Age people under study preferred to make sacrifices at wet, high, topographically dramatic and ancestral locations. There are finds from bogs and white-water river gorges, hilltops, a cave and a settlement-site that had once been important. In the rare dry-land deposit locations, eye-catching boulders were sought out.

Known sacrificial sites appear to prefer a location 1.2-1.5 km from settlement-indicating burnt mounds, rock art and the coeval seashore. This means that sacrificial sites are typically part of the same contiguous sightlined landscape room as the homes of the people who frequented them.

The paper will go through peer review and revision, so there’s ample time for any Aard reader who likes to suggest improvements.

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4 thoughts on “Gods of High Places and Deep Romantic Chasms

  1. I wish I was educated enough to help with the archaeology, but I’ll have to content myself with a little help with the copy editing instead: I think you’re missing a “the” in the paragraph just before the conclusion: “…prefer a location 1.2–1.5 km from burnt part of the same contiguous sightlined landscape room…”

    Fascinating paper! Trying to see and feel the landscape as our ancestors did shouldn’t be the exclusive province of New-Age mystics and neopagans. A scientist who can think a little like a Bronze-Age Scandinavian might be very lucky.


  2. Yes, I agree. It was entertaining, interesting and thought provoking for this layman to read. The paper is systematic and evidence-based, but refreshingly accessible and enjoyable for the lay reader. In that way, it helps to attract public interest towards sound archaeology and away from the new age loonies, who I find intensely frustrating. It is reality that is interesting.

    But the thing I like most about it is that it provides a basis for archaeologists to search systematically for sacrificial sites instead of having to rely on accidental discoveries, which evidently have greatly diminished. So potentially it provides for others to make new discoveries, which not only enables possibly some major advances in knowledge, but is also a very unselfish and professional thing to do, it seems to me. And, as you say, in the process it gives some insight into Bronze Age minds.


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