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Sunday, January 28th, 2007, 10:49 AM
The Uppåkra investigations

In the project a site at Uppåkra, situated approximately 5 km south of Lund , is used as a catalysator because of its special structure and find material.
The site at Uppåkra was first recognized in 1934 in connection with house constructions. A minor excavation revealed occupation layers with a thickness of more than 2 metres. The topmost occupation layer could be dated to the transition between the late Roman Iron Age and the Migration Period. Part of a wattle-and-daub house was investigated.
By small rescue excavations occupation remains have been found within an area of approximately 1.1 x 0.6 km - the largest occupation site known so far in southern Sweden. Stray finds dating to the late Iron Age have led to the conclusion that the site might have been occupied during most of the first millenium AD.
Because of the size and finds Uppåkra has been regarded as the site for a regional centre for southwestern part of the county Scania, although our knowledge of the structure and function of the during the late Iron Age was very limited. In order to gather more information about the site new investigations started in 1996.

Investigations in 1996 - 1997

In 1996 - 1997 the entire area was surveyed by metal detector. The result was very impressing. So far more than 3000 artefacts, mainly of bronze but of silver and gold as well, have been registered. Most of these finds are dated to the late Iron Age with the main part dated to the Vendel Period and the Viking Age (ca. 550 - 1000 AD). This period of occupation, previously badly known, has proved to produce an extensive remains of activities due to the use of metal detectors. The finds are vertically limited to the plow zone whitch indicated that most of the youngest occupation layers has been destroyed by plowing, while thick layers dating to the early Iron Age are still protected.
The artefacts are found throughout the site with at least three clusters. The number and composition of finds shows the site to be deviating from an ordinary Iron Age site. The importance of the Uppåkra site in a south Swedish perspective can be exemplified by some ornament types from Uppåkra double the number of previous finds in the county of Scania. Several wights as well as fragmented Arabic coins are indications of trade during the Viking Age. Ornaments, Arabic coins, ingots of silver, gold and different alloys as well as fragments of glass geakers are proofs of distant exchange. Fragments of moulds, sullage pieces, melted drops of bronze and silver, and bronze matrices shows that ornaments were made on the site.
By auger the stratigraphy has been documented. A continuous occupation layer covering an area of 1 x 0,5 km. Within three or four larger areas the occupation layers are more than 1 metre thick, sometime with a thickness of more than two metres. There is a good agreement to these areas and the highest density of detector finds.
No other Iron Age site in southern Sweden holds layers of a thickness even close to those in Uppåkra. On most sites plowing has totally destroyed the thin occupation layer once existing. The thick occupation layers, combined with the find material, mark a sedentary settlement whitch differ from almost all other Iron Age sites in the region.
Another result of interest is that the occupation layer exclude the areas around two mounds located within the site. This is also true as to a third mound the bottom of whitch was found during a small excavation. The mounds seem to have played an important role as to the organisation of the settlement and might be dated to the early Iron Age.
Several questions of importance related to the Viking Age settlement can be asked. Still we do not know much about the size of the Viking Age occupation. Viking Age artefacts are found within all areas of thick occupation layers indicating a settlement of considerable size. Some artefacts such as a small lion´s head in gilded silver, a small head of a boar as well as ornaments of extremely high quality is interpreted as belonging to the highest social level of the society.
By the size of the site, the number of finds and finds interpreted as markers of a high social position of their owners support the interpretations of Uppåkra being a central place of political power. Finds like a statuette of the god Oden and a gold foil figure provide the ritual character of the site. In Uppåkra the political and religious power is likely to have been combined.
The location of the site on a rise - one of the highest places on a plain - close to Lund erase questions about the relations between Uppåkra and Lund. According to the composition of coins and ornaments Uppåkra predates Lund. The earliest dendrochronological dates of Lund are 990. When the Danish kingdom, joined by representatives of the Christian church, included Scania in an early Danish state, Lund was founded as a manifestation of this new power. The geographical close connection between Lund and Uppåkra might mark a symbolic relation to the traditional centre while the dislocation signs an introduction of a new era.
Another question concern the relation between the prehistoric site and the Medieval village. The latter, Stora Uppåkra, is situated to the north of the prehistoric site. Except for some coins the metal detector survey produced no indications of settlement from the Medieval period within the prehistoric site. However, the church is situated a short distance south of the village within an area of thick layers of prehistoric occupation. This might indicate that the original (wooden?) church was part of a Late Viking Age manor with traditions to earlier periods.
The first notation of Uppåkra in written sources is in 1085. In king Cnut the Holy´s deed of gift to the cathedral in Lund, farms in south Uppåkra are included. This proves that two Uppåkra existed in the late 11th century. According to an analysis of the earliest land survey documents from the 18th century, fields at the border between the land of the villages are named Toftåkrarna, toft indicating deserted settlement. This is the location of one of the largest concentrations of Viking Age finds combined to a thick occupation layer. The habitants of that settlement might have founded the two villages of Uppåkra during a very late part of the Viking Age.
For the nearest future excavations are also planned in order to get a more detailed knowledge of the structure of the individual concentration of occupations layers. The investigations of Uppåkra will hopefully continue for many years to come.