Social Identity and Mobility at a Pre-industrial Mining Complex, Sweden

Ylva Bäckström, T. Douglas Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early modern period has so far received little attention from archaeologists and anthropologists in Sweden. This study explores demographic patterns, social differences, family structure and mobility in a 16th-century skeletal population (n=102) from a preindustrial mining community (Salberget) in Bergslagen, Sweden, using a bioarchaeological perspective. Methodologically, the results of strontium and oxygen isotope analysis in tooth enamel (n=38) were added to archaeological, anthropological and documentary evidence to detect demographic and/or social differences in mobility. Historical documents provided some indications of the kinds of people working at the mine. Archaeological evidence indicated two distinct grave types and the anthropological analysis documented differences in the age and sex of these individuals. The analysis of strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes in teeth was used to infer possible place of origin information about these individuals. Various lines of evidence suggest that the cemetery held a mix of family groups, foreign workers and prisoners of war, all associated with the Sala silver mine. Together, the archaeology, osteology and isotope chemistry confirmed the documentary evidence of internal and external migration in the region. Furthermore, this study displays signs of matrilocality and a socially stratified society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-168
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Anthropology
  • Archaeology

Free keywords

  • Mobility
  • demographical change
  • social identity
  • strontium isotopes
  • early modern period
  • mining cemetery
  • bioarchaeology


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