Sweden History


The Stone Age: Paleolithic (ca. 11000–8200 BC)

During the last ice age, reindeer hunters migrated from the European continent across a land bridge in the Sound. Their oldest known camp site, about 13,000 years old, is located on Lake Finjasjön in Skåne, a slightly younger one at Segebro. During this time, a specific material culture was developed in southern Sweden and Denmark (see bromine culture). In a second phase of immigration, people who were carrying on the tradition of the ahrensburg culture arrived. They have set aside a lot of settlement abandonments in Western Sweden.

Mesolithic (ca. 8200–4000 BC)

The first settlements after the ice melt belong to the Maglemose culture, which is located over large parts of southern Scandinavia. Settlements in marsh environments, later converted to mosses where bone and horn objects are well preserved, are the most informative (compare Ageröds bog). From the West Coast there are also remains of coastal communities, including in Hensbacka and Sandarna. Small arrowheads of flint, microliter, are characteristic finds from this period. At about the same time as the spread of the late Maglemic culture, about 7500 BC, Central and Northern Sweden was also populated. In these areas, the preserved material culture is dominated by implements of quartz, quartzite and other rocks. As a result of the land rise, the remains of the Stone Age coastal settlement are high above the current shoreline and in northern Norrland sometimes as much as up to 100 km from the coast. Instead, in southern Sweden, the sea covers the coastal area from the early Mesolithic period.

During the middle part of the Mesolithic, the congregation culture developedin southern Sweden, and on the west coast the contemporary lihult culture; the latter can be followed for the rest of the Mesolithic. During the Late Sotho period (6000–4000 BC), there were large coastal settlements in southern Sweden. From its composition, the finds from there are almost identical to the Danish pea culture. These settlements were permanent or semi-permanent and placed in places with good natural resources, where fishing played an important role. In some cases, graves or tombs have been found there. In contemporary coastal settlements in Norrland, slightly recessed hulls with low embankments appear. The use of slate for implements now increased in this part of the country. In southern Sweden, the material culture appears to have undergone rapid changes in the transition between the Mesolithic and the Neolithic, while the introduction of arable farming and livestock management has been slower.

Neolithic (about 4000-1800 BC)

During the early Neolithic period (4000–3300 BC), Middle Sweden was reached by funnel culture according to Digopaul. The community was based on individual farms, which as a result of farming that depleted the land were moved one or a couple of times per generation. At the end of the period, a firmer housing structure emerged, probably due to improved agricultural technology. At the same time, large-scale tombs in the form of boxes and pedestrians began to be erected; they are the first monuments of human hand in the Swedish landscape.

A climate change in the early Middle Ages (3300 to 2200 BC) led to the abandonment of agricultural industries in Central Sweden. Through the influence from the east, the material culture changed again, and pit ceramic culture developed. Clear traces of eastern cultural influence can also be found in Norrland, mainly from chamber ceramic culture. In southern Sweden, influence from the continent began to assert itself on both a material and a religious level, which was expressed in the culture of warfare. Collective burials in tombstones were now replaced by individual graves. The majority of all rock carvings with hunting motifs in central Norrland can be dated to this and the following period.

During the Late Politics (2200-1800 BC), the means of material expression became increasingly similar; e.g. tombs were built in the form of rock chests both on the coasts and in Sweden’s previously sparsely populated inland. This also indicates a significant spread of housing. The limited import of copper objects that existed from around 3400 BC (see copper age) was replaced from about 2000 BC of an increasing inflow of bronze and bronze objects.

The bronze age

With the imported metal, in addition to technical know-how, ideas and conceptions of society and the world followed. In Southern Scandinavia, the so-called Nordic Bronze Age culture developed, which largely received cultural impulses from Central Europe, while Sweden north of Uppland-Värmland (as well as Northern Norway and Finland) received impressions from Russia and Siberia. Both in the south and the north, the meeting between tradition and foreign impressions resulted in new forms of culture, which partly survived into the Iron Age. Oscar Montelius divided the Nordic Bronze Age in 1885 into six chronological periods, which are still used.

Period I– III: The Bronze Age (about 1800–1100 BC)

The richly decorated weapons and jewelery preserved from this era – often with an almost all-encompassing, elegant, punched spiral ornament – are status objects that reflect the social divide of society. They were manufactured in southern Scandinavia, perhaps in a small number of workshops. Most come from skeletal tombs in piles in Skåne and from piles and cattle in Western Sweden. Up to Uppland, the remains of long houses are found, either alone or some together. Livestock management dominated, but the cultivation of barley and wheat was also common. From this time, rock carvings spread from Skåne to Uppland. The community was based on local chiefdom. However, the trade in bronze and domestic goods required a wider organization: facilities such as the Kiviksröset and the tomb at Sagaholm also suggests the existence of major regional chiefdom.

In northern Sweden, southern Scandinavian bronzes are few, while older bronze age burrows are common along the Gulf of Bothnia. Whether people from the south moved there cannot be decided; the coastal population may have maintained old cultural contacts. Inland, a number of catchment sites are known from the entire Bronze Age. The finds are mainly characterized by exquisitely made, thin quartzite arrow and spear tips; Both form and technology originate from the east. Hunting, fishing and gathering were the most important industries, and the settlements were located by streams as well as during the Stone Age; However, sporadic cultivation and livestock management occurred. The community organization was simpler than in southern Sweden, but probably the local chiefdom also existed here.

Period IV – VI: Younger Bronze Age (c. 1100–500 BC)

Among the finds from this time, the combination razor, tweezers and jaw (or tattoo needle) is common, but there are also swords, axes, neck rings and belt cups. The small objects are found mainly in clay ornaments along with burnt human bones, ie. in fire graves that have been dug into the fill for older burial mounds or in burial fields under flat ground. The change in grave condition suggests a changed view of man; however, whether this also affected the social structure cannot yet be determined.

Metal became an everyday commodity; inter alia almost 2,000 so-called bronze hollyhocks have been found, most of which may well have been work tools. Remains after bronze foundry workshops have been found in many places (compare Hallunda), and unlike in the past, smaller regions with different types of characteristic bronze objects can be distinguished. Locations with three-storey long houses have been found, among other things. at Apalle in Uppland and Fosie in Malmö. Livestock management was still a more important industry than arable farming. The large settlements, imports, trade and workshop circles indicate a social structure that was more developed than during the older Bronze Age (compare Hågahögen).

There was a clear difference between upper and middle Norrland. In the northern area, the eastern impulses (compare ananino culture and asbestos ceramics), in Mellannorrland, increased the southern, noticeable in the spread of southern Scandinavian object types; cultivation and grazing also became more common there than before. This can be interpreted as linking central Norrland to the Nordic cultural circle, while upper Norrland came to belong to the cultural sphere which was later referred to as Sami.

Several bronze age phenomena would affect development in Sweden for a long time to come. These included the emergence of a Nordic population divided into different tribes and a Sami population related to Northern Norway and Finland, the establishment of close contacts with parts of Europe, and a developed social structure and trade, advanced wood-building technology, large farmhouses and a domestic metal craft.


The archaeological source material from the Iron Age shows great regional variations in time and space. It also makes it possible to distinguish southern Sweden (mainly Skåne), the Baltic Islands, western Sweden, the Mälar region and southern and central Norrland as separate cultural regions; Upper Norrland can be distinguished as a Sami area.

The few written sources of medieval Sweden, all foreign, are not clear or uncontroversial. They consist mainly of the Roman historian Tacitus, who during the first century AD mentions what has been interpreted as residents of Sweden (see svions), the Gothic historian Jordanes, who in the 500s mentions several tribes in Sweden (which are, however, difficult to identify), the sailor Wulfstan’s story from a journey along the coast of Sweden during 800- the second half of the century and, from the same time, the German Archbishop Rimberts biography of the representative Ansgar. From the end of the 11th century on the Swedish conditions there are valuable episcopal chronicles recorded by Adam of Bremen.

The approximately 3,000 runic inscriptions that were found in Sweden mainly consist of owner or memorial inscriptions, but from the Viking age onwards there are several that provide culturally interesting information.

Iron Age Iron Age (ca. 500 BC – BC)

During the oldest Iron Age, southern Sweden, the Baltic Sea Islands and Western Sweden had intensive contacts with the southern Baltic Sea area. can be read from the presence of different types of suit buckles. The state of society seems to have had a collective character, without much need for manifesting wealth. is emphasized by the large fire pit burial fields in i.e. Väster- och Östergötland. Local ironmaking also seems to have begun, especially in the south.

Roman Iron Age (AD – 400 AD)

During this period, extensive changes occurred, especially from the 20th century. The older social patterns were replaced by a social condition in which the individual became increasingly important. Behind the development were not least the contacts with the Roman Empire and an increasing exchange of goods with a strong element of Roman import goods; the event can be traced to Västernorrland. The formerly prevalent fire burial condition was extended with burial, not least in the Götal landscape and in the Baltic islands, which may also indicate increased social stratification. The process can also be observed in the Mälar landscape and in central Norrland, towards the end of the period manifested in richly equipped chamber tombs.

Especially in Östergötland as well as in Öland and Gotland, the settlements appear to have been characterized by seemingly organized farm buildings with stone ground houses and large systems of enclosures. Noteworthy is also the wealth of gold finds in some areas, not least in Öland, which may indicate extensive contacts to the south. Large parts of southern Sweden came to be incorporated into a larger economic and political system with the center in present-day Denmark. Now the run script was also introduced in Sweden.

Migration (400–550 AD)

The transformation of society in the form of a concentration of power to various centers continued, something that can be read from the rich and monumental tombs of the period, not least in the Mälar landscape and in central Norrland. The settlement patterns also changed, something that, in the case of mainly Öland and Gotland, was previously interpreted as the result of devastation, but which is now rather considered to be due to social change. The striking gold richness among the finds has been interpreted as the result of a changed sacrificial ritual, concentrated to local rulers who mediated contact with the gods. Iron production increased strongly in some areas, including: in the Storsjö countryside in Jämtland.

Information in foreign sources suggests that sons of local princes in the Nordic countries resided at the court of continental German states. The external ideological and political impulses have probably been significant, something not least reflected in art (see animal ornamentation). Among the well-known finds with a clear continuity from the Roman Iron Age to the time of migration are Helgö in Lake Mälaren. Numerous fortifications, so-called ancient fortresses, were erected, especially in the beginning of the migration period, especially in the Mälar landscape and in Bohuslän. However, their social background and function have varied considerably (see ancient castle).

Turnaround time (550–800) and Viking time (800–1050)

At the end of the Iron Age, social development was consolidated in the direction of the formation of the larger kingdoms. In the archaeological material, not least, the Mälar landscapes, Dalarna, Gästrikland and Hälsingland are strongly represented through more permanent settlement patterns, extensive iron handling and the maintenance of foreign contacts (including with the Baltic States, Finland and Russia). Differences with southern and western Sweden are now more clearly reflected in the burial material. In Western Sweden, the need to manifest society in visible tombs and tombs seems to have been less than in the eastern part of the country, which could be interpreted as a sign of social differences between gutters and swans. The founding of Birka in the 7th century was a natural consequence of the extensive international contacts.

The background to the emergence of a united Swedish kingdom is debated. The importance of the Mälar region in this context has been emphasized, and in an older research tradition, the role of Gamla Uppsala was also emphasized. Old Uppsala was obviously a central seat of central importance and with continuity from the migration period to the beginning of the Middle Ages (see Gamla Uppsala, Vendel and Valsgärde). However, with regard to the source information, it is difficult to see the national unification as solely from the Mälar region (compare ” Svea kingdom”). Instead, archaeologists and historians are seeking explanatory models in major societies and external contacts, not least with the strong Danish empire during the Viking era. In this context, the mediating role of the gothic landscape has probably been more central than previously thought.