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Identifying commoners in the Bronze Age: burials outside barrows

Chapter in book
Authors Sophie Bergerbrant
Kristian Kristiansen
Morten E. Allentoft
Karin M. Frei
T. Douglas Price
Karl-Göran Sjögren
Anna Tornberg
Published in New Perspectives on the Bronze Age: Proceedings from the 13th Nordic Bronze Age Symposium, held in Gothenburg 9th June to 13th June 2015
Pages 37-64
ISBN 9781784915988
Publisher Archaeopress
Place of publication Oxford
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 37-64
Language en
Keywords Late Neolithic, passage grave, gallery grave, flat grave, mound, Scania, southern Scandinavia, strontium isotopes
Subject categories Archaeology, North European, Archaeology


This article discusses the possibility of social division and the presence of commoners in south Scandinavia during the Early Bronze Age. The discussion is based on new scientific and archaeological data generated in the project Travels, transmissions and transformations in temperate northern Europe during the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC: The rise of Bronze Age societies. Based on a comprehensive radiocarbon dating program, we were able to re-assign many skeletons, previously assumed to be Late Neolithic, to the Bronze Age. This accounted for a significant proportion of non-elite burials (including those of children) that had previously been ‘mysteriously’ missing in the archaeological Bronze Age record. Moreover, strontium isotope analyses reveal that individuals seem to be mobile regardless of their wealth status and burial rituals. It suggests a society where workers and perhaps even nonfree labourers were mobile, not only the elite segment.

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