A Note from the Editors
The 2016 issue of Current Swedish Archaeology is now in print for all subscribers. It will appear here as open access after a 6-month delay (August). Volume 24 contains a keynote, four articles and a review. The keynote is written by Liv Nilsson-Stutz and concerns methodological, practical, ethical and theoretical developments in contemporary burial archaeology. Mortuary archaeology has undergone several changes in recent decades. The increasing use of natural scientific methods such as aDNA and isotopes has made global headlines in the media and added new and sometimes controversial information about the dead. In addition, it is now common in contemporary Swedish contract archaeology to include wood and soil analyses, archaeobotany, spectrometry, ceramic analyses of clay and heat, osteological analyses beyond sex and age etc. when excavating burials. We thus extract more information from the burials than before, but the potential and use of this data and how it affects the way we excavate and document is seldom discussed in depth.
There have also been a number of theoretical developments. Intersectional theory and life-cycle perspectives have proven helpful to avoid static views of the buried individual based on general categories such as sex, age and status. Ethical aspects of handling human remains have also been increasingly emphasized – in relation to both prehistoric and contemporary dead. The recent turn to materialist standpoints has criticized the anthropocentric bias in the way human remains are the central focus of burials at the expense of e.g. animal remains and other natural materialities. The concepts of grave and burial have always eluded any clear-cut definitions, and this question has been revitalized and questioned from a realist and relational point of view of becomings. From this perspective, all aspects (human and non-human) of the burial as it “presents itself” are traced over time and space and thus expand the context for interpretation.
These and other theoretical developments have questioned the traditional idea of the burial monument as a closed context – a construction for one individual buried on one occasion. How the changed forms of excavation and the increasing information gained from burials correspond to current theoretical strands is thus a challenge for contemporary archaeology to address. The keynote discusses these and other aspects of the wide field of burial archaeology and is commented upon by Richard Bradley, Chris Fowler, Alison Klevnäs, Christopher Knüsel and Terje Østigård.
This year’s issue also contains four research articles. Göran Gruber, Tom Carlsson and Alexander Gill discuss archaeological and palaeogenetic research on the transition to agriculture in the province of Östergötland in southern Sweden. Instead of polarizing the two approaches, they suggest that even though biomolecular data indicates migrations from farming populations, it does not necessarily contradict the archaeological interpretation that local groups of hunter-gatherers initiated a transition to agriculture in the area. Astrid Nyland is likewise concerned with the Neolithization process in her article. She discusses lithic procurement in Early Neolithic Norway in terms of objectified expressions of cultural identity and socio-political strategies, which, she argues, resulted in two parallel processes of Neolithization in the western and eastern regions of southern Norway. In the next article, Fredrik Fahlander discusses reuse of graves during the 8th–12th centuries AD in Sweden. He emphasizes material and ontological aspects of the mortal remains and suggests that post-burial actions generally constituted ways of relating to a specific type of materiality, the bones of the ancient dead, rather than being social strategies to negotiate power, status and identity. Magnus Ljunge examines the archaeological practice of graphical representation of Bronze Age rock art in Scandinavia. He argues that the materiality of the rock is a fundamental property of the imagery, and that significant visual aspects are lost or transformed during the translation from stone to paper or digital media. Finally, Martin Rundqvist contributes a review of Cecilia Ljung’s thesis Under runristad häll: Tidigkristna gravmonument i 1000-talets Sverige (Resting under rune-inscribed stones: Early Christian grave monuments in eleventh-century Sweden).
We hope that you will find this year’s issue interesting and stimulating.
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Fredrik Fahlander and Anders Högberg, editors