Bergsgraven in the exhibition of Östergötlands museum in Linköping. To the right the skeleton of the male and to the left that of the woman. In the left bottom corner the skeleton of the dog. The small child was placed near the dog. Photo: Jonas Karlsson, Östergötlands museum. Copyright: Östergötlands museum.

The Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture appears in the archaeological record of Scandinavia about 5,000 years ago. “The appearance and development of the culture complex has been debated for long and especially whether it was a regional phenomenon or whether this was associated to migratory processes of human groups”, says osteoarcheologist Jan Storå of Stockholm University, one of the senior authors of the study. In 1953, a significant burial belonging to the Battle Axe Culture was found when constructing a roundabout in Linköping. 4500 years ago, a man and a woman were buried together with a child, a dog as well as a rich set of grave goods including one of the eponymous battle axes. "The burial was one of the first to be chosen for archaeogenetic analyses more than 15 years ago but the first attempts were limited by methodological issues, but with the development of techniques and methods new possibilities opened up, says professor Anders Götherström at the Archaeological Research Laboratory, senior author. By sequencing the genomes of prehistoric individuals from present-day Sweden, Estonia and Poland, the research team showed that individuals of the Scandinavian Battle Axe culture and the continental Corded Ware Culture share a common genetic ancestry, which had not been present in Scandinavia or central Europe before 5,000 years ago. This suggests that the introduction of this new cultural manifestation was associated with movements of people.

“The collaboration of archaeologists with geneticists allows us to understand more about them as individuals as well as where their ancestors came from”, says archaeogeneticist Helena Malmström of Uppsala University, lead author of the study. These groups have a history which we ultimately can trace back to the Pontic Steppe north of the Black Sea”, says population geneticist Torsten Günther of Uppsala University, co-lead author of the study. In previous studies, the research team have been able to show that other cultural changes during the Stone Age, such as the introduction of farming practices, were also associated with movements of people. Again, archaeogenomic analyses reveal new and surprising results on the demographic processes in the Stone Age”, says Anders Götherström.

The Bergsgraven burial as well as a reconstruction of the individuals is usually on display at Östergötlands Museum in Linköping. Östergötlands Museum is currently closed for renovation and renewal. Therefore, the Bergsgraven grave is taken down, but it will be a central part of the upcoming exhibition, where we aim to integrate current archaeological and historical research. “It is a rare opportunity to build a new exhibition, and of course we want to tell the audience about the new analyses and interpretations made on the material” says Per Nilsson, archaeologist at Östergötlands Museum.

Additional Information

This study is part of the Atlas project, a multidisciplinary effort to understand Scandinavian prehistory, which is funded by the Swedish Research Council and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. The article “The genomic ancestry of the Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture people and their relation to the broader Corded Ware horizon” is published open access in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Contact information

  • Anders Götherström, Stockholm University (English, Swedish), email:
  • Jan Storå, Stockholm University (English, Swedish, Finnish), email:
  • Helena Malmström, Uppsala University (English, Swedish), email:
  • Torsten Günther, Uppsala University (English, German), email:

For more information on the Bergsgraven burial:
Mats Magnusson, Östergötlands museum(swedish, english), e-mail:, 013 - 23 03 74, 0701 - 91 92 55