An Homage to the Ancestors : A study of the secondary use of ancient fortifications as burial grounds during the Late Iron Age on Gotland

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Arkeologi

Abstract: Fortifications are a common type of ancient monument found throughout Scandinavia, and while the functions of forts are studied and debated quite heavily, the re-use of these structures is less known. On Gotland, there exist 84 ancient fortifications, of which approximately one-third have burials or registered graves within or in close proximity to their locations. This thesis identifies those locations where empirical evidence can be found to identify burials as a form of secondary use of fortifications. The case study of Gudings slott, in Eke Parish, is examined to exemplify the chronological extent of secondary use of an ancient fortification by continued burial rituals from the Late Iron Age through the early Middle Ages. Ancestral worship, memory theory, burial practices, and spatial analysis are utilized to explain why these sites may have been chosen for re-use as burial grounds during the Late Iron Age. The resulting interpretations reveal a unique combination of topographic location, ancestral connectivity, and social stressors as key factors in the secondary use of the examined sites. In addition, new possibilities for the study of Gotland’s ancient fortification sites and suggestions for future research are put forward.

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