BALMS: Bronze Age Landscapes and Metalwork in Sweden

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Project Description

Hoards have played a significant role in our narratives of the European Bronze Age. This is because they are ubiquitous, appearing across Europe throughout the period. But they are also diverse: they are found in different contexts and their contents change through time and vary geographically. They are the source of much debate: scholars for decades have argued about the purpose and meaning of hoards. Were they sacrificial offerings or metalworkers’ stores? Were they intended to control supply chains or keep valuables safe in times of threat? A significant impact on these debates has been a greater understanding of the composition of metal hoards (e.g. object types, provenance) and their relationship to their landscape contexts (e.g. certain types of objects were deposited in specific places). 

          For the Scandinavian Bronze Age (c. 1700–500 BC), much work has focused on the types and state of objects included, their provenance, and metallurgical composition. Fewer studies have focused on hoards’ relationship to landscapes, and even fewer have included analysis in the field. BALMS aims to do just this in Halland, a narrow province that runs about 200 km along the south-western coast of Sweden from Gothenburg to Scania (map). Its landscape is dotted with large barrows that are iconic of the Early Scandinavian Bronze Age, many of which have provided significant metalwork finds and were re-used for secondary burials into the late Iron Age.

          BALMS will explore the nature and functions of (specifically metalwork) hoards, within this complex monumental landscape of Halland by evaluating their contents and contexts. Our preliminary study revealed that a number of hoards can be related to fords, roads and harbours, thus indicating places of symbolic, social and economic significance. Recent research has underlined the complexity of Scandinavian Bronze Age communities and the importance of long-distance trade and metal exchange. Competing models have been put forward to elucidate these large-scale issues, but the circulation of metal on a local scale is less debated. BALMS aims to fill this gap by proposing new interpretations for the circulation and consumption of metal in a regional setting.

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Dr Peter Skoglund is a Senior Lecturer at Linnaeus University, Sweden, who has extensive experience with the landscape archaeology of this region.

Dr Courtney Nimura is a Researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, who specialises in the rock art of southern Scandinavia.

Professor Richard Bradley is Emeritus Professor of European Prehistory at the University of Reading, who recently published the results of a similar project in southern England.

Dr Christian Horn is a Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who specialises in Scandinavian Bronze Age weaponry and metalwork.


For more information about this project, please email Dr Courtney Nimura:

Photo. A decorated Bronze Age Period II shaft-hole axe from Halland. Photo: Tania Muñoz Marzá, Copyright: Statens historiska museer.