Baltic Stone Ships. Monuments and Meeting places during the Late Bronze Age

New doctoral theses from the University of Gothenburg

During the Late Bronze Age, the number of metal objects in the Baltic Sea region increased tremendously. Mobility and interaction in this northern inland sea intensified. This occurred in a period of prehistory when the ship was the predominant symbol in southern Scandinavia. The ship can be found in rock carvings, on bronze objects and by way of erected stone monuments: stone ship settings. These stone ships are mainly to be found in the Baltic Sea region, with a marked concentration on Gotland. The stone ship settings and their landscape context are the focus of this dissertation. The objective is to clarify whether it is possible to find evidence of social groupings of people in the Nordic Late Bronze Age (1100-500 BC), by focusing on the stone ship monument, adopting a maritime approach. These people might have been part of a maritime institution specializing in trade and long distance journeys during this period, thus achieving a more advanced maritime way of life in the Baltic Sea. Are the ship settings an expression of these specific groups of people, who utilized their practices to position and articulate themselves in the landscape? If such maritime institutions can in fact be traced, there must also be uniformly structured locations for these groups of people to meet in, some kind of antecedents of harbours. By taking an inland sea, the Baltic Sea, as a geographical demarcation, a different perspective of prehistory is attained. The area in the Late Bronze Age and earliest Iron Age (950/900-200 BC) differed from the Nordic Bronze Age sphere. The communities around the Baltic Sea, through the establishment and sharing of mutual interests, seem to have reached a certain degree of consensus. This concordance might well be largely explained by the complex dependency on metal. Such a manifestation would not have been possible without an infrastructure or network, in this case a maritime one. This is something which has previously been overlooked in discussions on the Bronze Age in the Baltic Sea.


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