Environmental Archaeology in Southern Scandinavia

  • Kurt J. Gron
  • Peter Rowley-Conwy
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


Environmental archaeology was first developed in southern Scandinavia and has a longer history there than anywhere else. We argue that environmental archaeology has always been a central aspect of archaeology as a whole, not a subsidiary sub-specialisation. Major archaeological theories are often based on the findings of environmental archaeology, and in this chapter we take the perspective of its application to the question of agricultural origins in Scandinavia. To do so, we review its early history, starting with J.J.S. Steenstrup’s work on the stratigraphy of peat bogs in 1842 and the subsequent identification of shell middens as human habitation sites by him and J.J.A. Worsaae. By the mid-twentieth century, environmental archaeologists such as Johannes Iversen and Jørgen Troels-Smith were setting much of the archaeological agenda, and their results were central to archaeological interpretations all over Europe. In recent decades environmental archaeology has expanded hugely. We review recent developments including major regional projects, archaeological chemistry and diet, ancient DNA, ecosystem modelling, and the results from recent zooarchaeology and archaeobotany. There remain many lacunae in our knowledge, but the capacity of environmental archaeology to examine topics both broadly and in close detail means that it remains central to our understanding of the lives of prehistoric people.


Agricultural origins Mesolithic Neolithic Scandinavia History of archaeology Isotopes Zooarchaeology Archaeobotany Ancient DNA 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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