Over 80 Strange Bronze Age Holes Discovered in Sweden. Why Did People Gather there 3000 Years Ago?

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If preliminary analyses of the excavations are right, it appears food preparation and large gatherings have gone hand in hand in Sweden for millennia. 82 holes of varying sizes and a more modern ceramic pot with unknown contents have been found in a recently unearthed archaeological site. Although unconfirmed, the pits have been associated with an ancient cooking practice and the site is linked to ceremonial rituals; together these elements suggest rituals and feasting, but what exactly was going on in Sunnsvära, Sweden 3000 years ago?

According to Arkeologerna archaeologists believe people were gathering in the area not far from the modern town of Varberg during the Bronze and Iron Ages to take part in some ancient ceremonies. The 82 pits dug into the ground are somehow connected to the forgotten rituals.

Arkeologerna reports that the pits differ in size, from 0.4 meters (13 ft.) to 1.7 meters (56 ft.) in diameter. It is believed they were dug near each other to make food preparation easier.

82 pits have been found in Sunnsvära, Sweden. ( Jessica Andersson /CC)

Much mystery still surrounds the site as “there are no traces of the ancient society that once lived here. All that is left are the pits.” The pit would have been used for cooking by digging it in the hard earth, filling it partway with hot stones, adding the food, and topping it all with sod. This method would have provided more heat than cooking over an open fire.

The analysis of charcoal removed from two of the pits helped the researchers in dating the site. Additional analysis of the holes is planned to help discover more about cooking pit function(s) and chronology. If found, bones or seeds could also provide some insight into the diet of the ancient people in the area.

Lina Håkansdotter gently shovels down into the mud to uncover the pot found near the 82 pits in Sunnsvära, Sweden. The plastic prevents the pot from falling apart.

Lina Håkansdotter gently shovels down into the mud to uncover the pot found near the 82 pits in Sunnsvära, Sweden . The plastic prevents the pot from falling apart. (Jessica Andersson /CC)

Although the exact date of when humans first mastered fire is hotly debated, it has been shown that a fire pit was once a popular method of cooking in ancient times. Apart from the recent discovery in Sweden, in-ground fire pits have been found in Peru, India, and many Polynesian cultures. This type of cooking method would have proved especially useful in preparing food for festivals, celebrations, and ritual ceremonies – important events which could have involved large numbers of people.

By the Bronze Age , inhabitants of what is now Sweden had a more favorable climate and had already made connections with distant lands , their economy was based on agriculture and fishing, and social stratification was present in their hamlets and homesteads. Worn weapons also suggest war was present in the area. An interpretation of prehistoric rock art , such as the images found in Tanum, have revealed important details on religious and practical elements of life in this and previous periods of Swedish prehistory.

29 balls, depth of carvings clearly visible in the evening light, at Rock Carvings in Tanum, Sweden.

29 balls, depth of carvings clearly visible in the evening light, at Rock Carvings in Tanum, Sweden. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Archaeological evidence from the early Iron Age (known as the Pre-Roman Iron Age ), on the other hand, shows Scandinavia as a whole was less socially-stratified (at least for a time), had less long-distance connections, and a poorer climate.

Top Image: Detail of one of the pits found in Sunnsvära, Sweden. Source: Jessica Andersson /CC

By Alicia McDermott



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