Geoarchaeological tools to contextualise ancient pastoral sites in Suollagavalda, northern Sweden

Loïc Charles Pierre Harrault, Kjell-Åke Aronsson, Gabriela Domene Lopez, Karen Beatrice Milek, David George Anderson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


Ancient and modern pastoralist groups in northern Sweden have relied on reindeer and goats as an economic staple since approximately AD 1000. While many of the same lands are still used for pasture, reliance on this economy has diminished over time.
Archaeological evidence for past herding activity is often ephemeral in the circumpolar region and finding ancient pastoral sites relies currently on combining traditional knowledge and evidence from archaeological surveying. Two visible aspects of past occupations are rectangular stone hearths and ‘stallo foundations’ – sunken floor dwellings with circular embankments – whose associated economic activities and seasonality are frequently discussed in archaeological literature.
Here, we demonstrate how magnetic susceptibility field coil and phosphate field analyses at Suollagavalda, a medieval to post-medieval pastoral site in northern Sweden, successfully identified previously un-recorded hearth features, subsequently mapped and excavated.
We also used lipid biomarker analysis to have more clues about past fire feature uses. A faecal biomarker database model has been constructed with several reference faecal samples from different species (reindeer, goats, sheep, lemmings, dogs etc.) to allow species identification in archaeological soils.
This geoarchaeological toolbox has finally been used to:
1) determine a more detailed test-pitting and field sampling strategy;
2) establish the extent and spatial organisation of the site;
3) hypothesise possible site uses such as milking corral locations or identifying groups of structures perhaps representing a hierarchically and spatially organised trading community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2017
EventHumanor project meeting February 2017 - University of Aberdeen (UK) - University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Feb 201728 Feb 2017


OtherHumanor project meeting February 2017 - University of Aberdeen (UK)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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