Academic dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy inArchaeology at Stockholm University to be publicly defended on Friday 4December 2009 at 10:00 in Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, SvanteArrhenius väg 12.


Practices for the Living and the Dead


The main themes of the thesis are burial customs and social identities, and how medieval andpost-Reformation graves can provide information on such as age structures, phases in life, genderrelations and social organization. The study is based on nine groups of Scandinavian material,and it comprises four case studies. The first one deals with social zoning in medieval cemeteriesand how age and gender structures varied within and between different social strata. The secondconcerns ‘atypical’ medieval burials, such as graves in which individuals have been buried in adeviant or peripheral position; and it also focusses on burials of the sick and the impaired. The thirdcase study examines two mainly medieval burial practices: the use of charcoal and burial rods, andpossible interpretations of their inclusion in graves. The fourth study deals with post-Reformationburial customs; how they differ from the medieval ones and what notions may have caused thechanges in practice. It is concluded that in the Early Middle Ages, social identity was to a large extent intermingledwith group identity. Towards the twelfth century, the social boundaries were sharpened and burialcustoms emphasizing personal aspects such as gender, age and body developed. A person’sbiological status was a major factor in determining gender and social identities, and thereby alsosocial status. In the Late Middle Ages the inner burial customs became more homogeneous,probably as a result of new religious beliefs and ecclesiastical restrictions. After the Reformation,social differences in burial prevailed, and above all the memorials displayed and shaped socialidentities. The inner burial customs became more varied again, displaying a ‘revival’ of oldcustoms. This was most likely caused by changes in religious practices: since the Church no longerprovided comforting and protective ritualistic practices they were instead performed before the funeral by the next of kin.