Vertebra of wels catfish. Photo: Jenna Karhu, SHMM
The main focus of our work are the excavations conducted in the 1970s by Mats P. Malmer but our mission also concerns the digital accessibility of the site in general. We believe that any scholar wanting to research the assemblages of the pile dwelling will need to have the complete assemblages digitally available. Hans Browall registered a large portion of Otto Frödin’s assemblages (over 5600 posts) in the database of the museum and now we are continuing this work, offering archaeology students internships with the project. Below follows the report of one of these interns, Jenna Karhu, student of Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
So far the massive assemblage of bones from Alvastra has yet to make an appearance in this blog, so I thought of writing a few lines of introduction.
During my seven weeks of internship in the Alvastra project I have been registering the bone material from the earlier excavation of Alvastra pile dwelling in 1909–1930 by Otto Frödin. The material consists of animal and human bones. Bone material includes also teeth and antler. Bones can be unburnt, slightly burnt or completely burnt.
The most recent osteological analysis was by Ebba During, but other researchers before her have also studied the osteological assemblage. Osteological analysis means the study of bones, and this study can reveal information about age, sex, stature or growth, diet, occupation or activities, demography or population, health and social structures, migration and living conditions.
The goal of the Alvastra project is to make the find material accessible digitally. The Alvastra bone material from Frödin’s excavations comprises over 80 boxes of bones of which I have registered but a few, closer to 10 percent. This means that I am not able to give an overview of what the material looks like. However, in the material I have registered, I have come across the most common household animals: cattle, pig, sheep, goat and dog. Of the wild species I have seen for example red deer, elk, roe deer, badger, pine marten, European water vole, hare, lynx, hedgehog and bear. Birds I did not encounter at all and fish were few. But the majority of the few fish bones belonged to a wels catfish, which cannot be said to be the most common of fish species from Stone Age.
The volume I managed to register did not contain many human bones. The majority of them were worn teeth. There were also some singular cases of vertebra, femur, humerus and tibia.