Regional Settlement Patterns in the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age

The shift from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in around 500 BC has traditionally been perceived as coinciding with the shift from the small Bronze Age settlements with one or a few farms to the rise of Iron Age villages. The image is formed on the basis of a number of ground-breaking studies of now classic sites in the southern and central Jutland area, carried out in the 1960s and the decades thereafter.

With the high level of archaeological activity of the last 10-15 years and the long series of studies derived from it, a far more nuanced and complex picture of the period’s settlements is now emerging. Thus, in some areas, well into the Iron Age, households either continued to settle separately or only a few households would settle together. In other areas, large villages were established as early as the Bronze Age. The form and organization of the settlement occurred in a number of social conditions in terms of social structures, a society’s hierarchy, heritage, agricultural technologies and exchange of goods, just as it also had a number of consequences for the individual, whether part of a larger community or not. A clarification of the structure of the settlements and the background for this is thus absolutely central to the understanding of the way of life of the time.

The Ph.D. thesis is based on, among others, studies of the site Nr. Hedegård in North Jutland and the archaeological investigations at Tietgen Byen southeast of Odense, and materialised by the monographs shown here (Runge 2009 and 2010).

The starting point for the project is the analyses from extensive archaeological investigations of the settlements of the time outside the southern and central Jutland area, namely on Trandersbakkeøen near Ålborg and an important cultural landscape with graves, settlements, places of worship, etc. in the business district of Tietgen Byen near Odense. The analyses have resulted in two monographs, “Nørre Hedegård. A North Jutland settlement mound from the older Iron Age” (2009) and “Kildehuse II. Cemeteries from the Late Bronze Age and Viking Age in Odense Southeast” (2010), as well as a series of articles. Finally, against this background, a synthesis-forming Ph.D. thesis has been written, titled “The formation of regional settlement patterns in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age”. The thesis was defended at Aarhus University in the spring of 2013.

The research has been carried out as interdisciplinary and inter-institutional projects, where scientific analyses play a significant role. An important element is cultural landscape studies with a focus on the connection between the different components of the cultural landscape, their spatial location, etc. Central to the Ph.D. theses is a break with the traditional perception of the Early Iron Age as a self-regulating society and instead an increased focus on the importance of an active level of leadership.
The Ph.D. theses has been reworked and published in national and international peer-reviewed journals. The project is an element in the museum’s research program CENTRUM.