The River Flows Forever On: Landscape Agency in South-western Sweden, 550-1750 A.D

University essay from Lunds universitet/Historisk arkeologi

Abstract: This thesis studies the interaction between rivers and human culture through a wide theoretical perspective combining the theories of Fernand Braudel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Homi Bhabha and recent “symmetrical archaeology”. While landscape archaeology previously to a large degree has been focused on phenomenology and studies of symbolic landscapes, this thesis tries to emphasise the importance of the land itself. Rivers have strangely been rather overlooked in landscape archaeology considering their central role in the natural landscape. Two river systems – Göta Älv and Ätran – are selected for closer analysis of the period between 550-1750 A.D. The main questions raised are: - Have the rivers in question contributed to the construction of society? - Has the interaction between nature and culture created riverine hybrid landscapes? These questions are explored and analysed through the development of a geodatabase with digital information from several official databases such as: FMIS, SGU, SMHI, KARL, GEORG, Lantmäteriet and SDHK. The methodology is centered on the investigation of a large diversity of river uses, including the natural preconditions, economic factors and ideological aspects. Three case studies for each river are selected for a more detailed study and the synthesis is then analysed through a comparative perspective. The analysis shows that although there might be certain differences between Göta Älv and Ätran, some common patterns of character exist. Both rivers have clearly contributed to society in a large variety of ways and on a diverse number of levels. Both economically and ideologically Göta Älv and Ätran have affected their surrounding settlements. The hybrid character of the riverine landscapes is difficult to capture physically, although a few clear examples exist. Both milling and water meadows are suggested as examples of important factors in the creation of hybrid landscapes. Further suggestions for future research are also given, along with a discussion concerning the problematic nature of the present landscape archaeological discourse.

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