The ghostly hills of Scania

I guess unlike USA, here in Europe a lot of features and formations in the landscape are man made. Just the fact that we have had a lot of monument building, industrial and farming cultures for thousands of years have seen to this phenomena. But there is of course great local variations here as well. Some parts where never (as far as the archaeologists know) that populated – usually areas far from water where less populated.

Here in the south of Sweden, in the region of Scania (Skåne) where I live one of the most easily found features from older times are the burial mounds (or barrows) of the bronze age – so called “tumulus” in archaeology-latin (tumuli in plural). And they can really dominate the local landscape sometimes beeing in huge numbers and often located on top of ridges so that they can be seen for miles. I think its been calculated that these mounds took some 2000 man hours to build, so one can understand that not just any any would get them, and that those men (I think that the gender part has been proven) where of great power in the society. Big men or chiefs – typical of the Scandinavian Bronze age, wich many regard as one of the most rich, complex and impressive bronze age cultures in the World. Probably far more impressive in comparison than our more famous Viking age in the late Iron age. Yeah, I know, these types of valuations are totally subjective.

Anyway, it is well known that even from the start these mounds started to erode down by unnatural reasons – meaning busy little people eroding them. But it was probably not until the late 1800s that the great erosive destruction of the mounds started for real when farming used deeper going plows and needed more and more land. Before that people probably where superstitious about the mounds and the “magic” about them and left them alone in respect and fear of them. So in some cases superstition was a good thing – for archaeologists at least.

Anyhow, the hills are greatly decimated in numbers today, but thanks to archaeological surveys a lot of traces of “lost” hills are still there. And thanks to the fantastic FREE service provided by RAÄ (Riksantikvarieämbetet) (A government branch working with cultural heritage) called “Fornsök“, where one can search almost all of Sweden for mapped archaeological finds, I got to learn that there where several of these burial mounds around my neighbourhood actually. Today some of them are still visible and preserved, but most are just known by their name on the map and small elevations on the ground.

Locations of Tumuli near Gunnesbo

Fig 1. Fornsök map of north western parts of the city of Lund called Gunnesbo where I live. Here all archaeological finds are marked with an “R”. Blue areas indicate larger discoverys like for example so called fossilized farmland. Clicking the “R” (on Fornsök) gives you a window with the original archaeological report. The red rings (made by me) indicate tumuli. Existing ones or just the remains. The one with the green ring is seen in photo below and is well preserved.

Bronze age barrow

Fig 2. This tumulus in the center of Gunnesbo has three used names in the historical text. Its called Kongshögen (Kings mound) Räfshögen (Fox Mound) or Bålshögen (Fire Mound).

Bronze age barrow

Fig 3. This tumulus I took a photo of just yesterday from the highway north of Lund near Gårdstånga and is called Ulshög (or Utshög) according to Fornsök. Just to give you another example of these common man made features in the Scanian landscape – and that Fornsök can aid you with most of them.

This entry was posted in Geoarchaeology, Landscapes & Geomorphology, Scania (Skåne) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The ghostly hills of Scania

  1. Mikah says:

    There are similar mounds in USA. Check Mississippian culture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture

    But I don’t know in what extent these mounds are visible in the landscape.

  2. Daniel says:

    Mikah: Ah, cool. Did not know that. But are they as common as the bronze age mounds are here in western Scania?

  3. Mikah says:

    I don’t know, but the survey & recording of the North American mounds is an ongoing project, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mound_builder_(people) .

    Interesting, I also want to know how common these are in the landscape of the Mississippi area. There seems to be parallels to the Scanian mounds, for instance the destruction of mounds through land exploitation. And the reason for why the mounds were built. Centralized complex chiefdoms etc.

    I found some interesting links while searching for answers. http://www.greatdreams.com/mounds.htm “Indian Mounds of the United States” and
    http://ibsgwatch.imagedjinn.com/learn/learn2.htm#parksandculture “A portal to general information on Indian grounds, mounds and related interests, with links to Federal and State protected sites and successful preservation efforts”.

    And it looks like that the entire Mississippi river area seems to be crowded with burial mounds!

  4. Silver Fox says:

    Interesting, I thought of the U.S. mounds when first reading your post, but thought they couldn’t be the same overall age. I see that they would at least overlap in age with the Scandia sites: the Mound Builders were (possibly) active from 3000 B.C. on, and the Bronze age started at about 3300 B.C.

  5. Silver Fox says:

    Oops! I mean Scania.

  6. Daniel says:

    Silver Fox: Yes, but i dont think they are in any way connected as cultures. Bronze age ships crossing the Atlantic? Possible, but unlikely. Its most likely just a coincidence.

  7. Silver Fox says:

    I don’t think anyone has seriously suggested a cultural association of that kind, in fact, maybe some of U.S. mounds are related to central American type structures (but not all, I don’t think – am not really up on current archaeology thinking). I find it all quite interesting.

  8. Daniel says:

    Silver Fox: Yes. Its interesting. And it would be cool if there where connections of course – even if its very unlikely.

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