Health, cattle and ploughs: Bioarchaeological consequences of the Secondary Products Revolution in southern Sweden, 2300-1100 BCE

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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In this thesis diet and health of people who lived in southern Sweden 2300-1100 BCE is studied. The study is based on bioarchaeological analyses of human remains from 46 localities in the areas of Uppland, Närke, Östergötland, Västergötland, and Scania. The studies are based on skeletal remains from a minimum number of 310 individuals that have been analysed both osteologically and biochemically. The thesis constitutes five papers and a synthesis, where diet and health, related to agro-pastoral intensification and increased social stratification, is explored and discussed.

The author acknowledges a biocultural approach, i.e. human biology and culture are intertwined and affect each other. A variety of cultural expressions and actions form human biology, which can be studied as skeletal adaptation or stress. This relationship makes it possible to study past cultural behaviour through analyses of human skeletal remains. The results of the papers have been discussed in relation to bioarcheological theories and methodologies as well as current regional archaeological understandings.

The period around 2300-1100 BCE is considered by archaeologists as a period of agro-pastoral intensification, population increase, and increased social stratification. Agro-pastoral intensification allows for increased access to nutrition, and further, a resource surplus. This development would plausibly also result in population increase and increased socio-economic differences. Through investigations of diet, oral health, stature, paleopathology and care, mobility, and demography insight in the biological consequences of this development have been gained.

The results from the papers show that there is a higher reliance on cereals and cattle in the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age than in previous periods, which is visible both in stable isotope results and the frequency of dental caries. The health of the population seems to have been generally good with high stature, low prevalence of pathological lesions related to nutritional stress, possibility of gaining care if injured, many surviving into old ages, and low child mortality, which is indicative of low risk of infections due to low population density. However, an elevated risk of dying as young adults and decreasing female stature in the Early Bronze Age might reflect increased levels of stress in parts of the population.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Archaeology and Ancient History
  • Ahlström, Torbjörn, Supervisor
  • Petersen, Hans Christian, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2018 May 11
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-88473-85-1
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-88473-86-8
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2018-05-11
Time: 13:15
Place: C121, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Fibiger, Linda
Title: DPhil
Affiliation: University of Edinburgh, Skottland

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Archaeology
  • History and Archaeology
  • Humanities


  • Late Neolithic
  • Early Bronze Age
  • southern Sweden
  • bioarchaeology
  • Care
  • health
  • dental caries
  • biocultural
  • political-economy
  • Secondary Products Revolution
  • paleopathology
  • paleodemography
  • stature
  • trauma
  • human osteology
  • isotopes


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