Lithics in the Scandinavian Late Bronze Age. Sociotechnical change and Persistence

Anders Högberg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


During south Scandinavian Late Bronze Age, c. 900-500 BC, a new tool was invented. It consisted of a wooden shaft and a knife blade made out of flint. One singel of this tool still exists today. It was found in a Danish bog in late 19th century. But there are many of the knife blades of flint; in museum collections or in flint assemblages from archaeological excavations. Archaeologists call them large blade knives of flint. My research focuses on the question on why these large blade knives of flint were invented, used and finally ceased to exist in a period which archaeologically is defined as a transition time between south Scandinavian Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age.

The study takes on a theoretical perspective on sociotechnical change and persistence, discussing interpretative archaeology, materiality, actor-network theory, chaîne opératoire and classification. An extensive empirical study is conducted, based in analysis of flint knapping technologies, use and archaeological contexts. The large blade knives as well as other Late Bronze Age flint industries are studied using attribute analysis, use-wear analysis, raw material analysis, experimental archaeology, and contextual analysis.

The results shows that the large blade knives are highly standardised and specialised, produced at first hand at specialised production places by flint knappers with a special knowledge and know-how. The blade knives were used to harvest grains and cut reed. They were used in an area answering to today’s south Sweden, Denmark, south Norway, the Baltic coast of north Germany and Poland. There is a large uniformity of the technology over this area, although local variations exist. The large blade knives were used as agricultural tools. They are found in archaeological contexts which are very much associated to household activities. They are also found in ritual deposits, showing they were an evident part of Late Bronze Age cosmology. The do not occur as grave goods. Only one large blade knife from a grave context is known.

The results of the research implies that previous studies has been delimitated by presumptions that technological change during this time was limited to metal, i.e. a change from using bronze to the use of iron. Instead we must consider that technological change during south Scandinavian Late Bronze age was a complex set of changes and persistence regarding social, technological, cosmological and power aspects, concerning the use of raw materials, changes in the use of the landscape, agriculture, hierarchy and ritual. Through the study of a specialised flint knapping technology and specialised use of a tool made out of a wooden shaft and a large knife blade of flint, aspects of change and persistence during this time is discussed. It is concluded that sociotechnical change and persistence was a dynamic of different claims in society between social group – between the old conservative power and the new inventors. The blade knives were actors and actants in the dynamic between the old aristocratically interpretative prerogative and the innovators clams on this interpretative prerogative. This is a result which has consequences on how we as archaeologists interpret the European change from Bronze Age to Iron Age. It moves the focus of archaeological interpretation, from looking at this time period as a change from one metal to another, to look at it from a point of view of sociotechnical change and persistence.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Archaeology and Ancient History
  • Olausson, Deborah, Supervisor
Award date2009 Jun 5
ISBN (Print)978-1-4073-0414-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2009-06-05
Time: 10:15
Place: Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Bradley, Bruce
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University of Exeter, England


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History and Archaeology

Free keywords

  • Late Bronze Age
  • Sociotechnical change and Persistence
  • Lithic analysis
  • South Scandinavia


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