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Ancient History

Prior to the planning and building of MAX IV, ESS and Science Village, an archaeological survey and excavation took place. We have been able to learn a great deal from the results of these about the area’s landscape and how people lived here, going back as far as 6,000 years. Back then the place was not a part of north-east Lund, nor was it close to Malmö or Copenhagen as none of these cities existed.

The excavations have shown that the first human settlements in the area odate much further back than previously believed. 5,800 years ago there were farmers living permanently here, and on the site where ESS was later built stood a village with ten huts and two long houses. Thousands of carbonised cereal grains, grindstones and other tools show that people in the village largely subsisted on what they were able to grow. Analyses of ceramics from the period reveal residue from milk and meat stored or prepared in the vessels.

By analysing pollen preserved in layer after layer of the wetlands’ sediment over thousands of years, changes in the area’s vegetation can be traced over time. An increase in grass and cereal pollen can be seen in the period to which the archaeological agricultural artefacts have been dated; reflecting a landscape of pastures and cultivated land. The present-day Science Village site was covered by lush deciduous forest with a high canopy and brush vegetation featuring raspberries and hazelnuts. The stone axes discovered here were the tools that transformed the landscape as humans thinned the forest by hand; clearing trees, planting crops and building their dwellings. The excavations have also revealed burial monuments just south of Möllegården, with a processional route from Odarslövsvägen leading to two dolmens. These were built around 3,500 BC and are more recent than the earliest settlements in the area around ESS. The dolmens manifest the continuity and power of the site. The top picture shows a reconstruction of how the landscape would have appeared at that time. The processional route coincides with the rays at sunrise on the winter solstice.

Uppåkra – Once a Center of Power

During the Scandinavian Iron Age, one of the largest centres of influence was Uppåkra, five kilometres south of the modern-day city of Lund. For over a thousand years, from 100 BC until 1,000 AD, this was where those who wielded power in the region lived. More than 28,000 metal objects found here tell the story of a vibrant centre for trade, religion and politics. The exchange of knowledge with the outside world was extensive and this, in combination with the local enthusiasm for experimentation, resulted in the region’s first-rate craftsmanship. Ideas and innovations were assimilated and disseminated on their travels. The inhabitants of Uppåkra had contacts with the Roman Empire and its legions. This allowed them to gain increased knowledge of anatomy and healing. Discoveries of surgical instruments such as forceps, probes and scalpels bear witness to this exchange. Similar instruments are still used by doctors today.

At the epicentre of the settlement was Uppåkra’s temple. This was, in all probability, the tallest building and would have been an impressive sight. When the temple was excavated, a number of astonishing and unique objects were discovered. These included a bronze and silver beaker decorated with gold ornamentation and a glass bowl imported from the Black Sea region, as well as 120 or so small gold figures, known as guldgubbar. With the help of these finds, the building’s cult, ceremonial and religious worship functions could be confirmed.

The balance of power needed to be maintained locally as well as at a distance. We know that there was contact between Uppåkra and the area around Science Village thanks to a trail of discovered materials, such as glass beads. Entire farms contemporary with Uppåkra have also been excavated in our area, including a large farm beside Odarslövsvägen. Here, aside from the dwellings, there was also a hall dedicated to receiving guests. The discovery of several ovens bears witness to large-scale food production in the form of baking and roasting malt for beer production. A few hundred metres from the large farm lay a family burial site with twelve graves, several of which contained a wealth of objects intended to accompany the deceased on their final journey. These objects included beautifully decorated ceramic vessels that probably contained food and drink and necklaces made from glass and amber beads were also found in several graves. One of the graves contained a necklace consisting of 551 beads in addition to a wooden-handled knife alloyed with bronze. A further grave yielded a small ring and a coin-shaped plate of gold beside the head rest. This gold plate was engraved with a pattern of sixteen Ys, every other one facing inwards, and concentric circles in the centre which together form a sun or a flower pattern. This may have been a coin similar to the coins of Greek mythology that were placed in the mouths of the dead to pay for their journey to the other side.

Research Institutes provide answers about the past

The first known grains ever grown in Skåne, 5,800 years old specimens from this site, have been examined using the same techniques as those used at ESS. From the pictures we can see that the carbonised cereal grains still contain a well-preserved embryo. The purpose is to discover whether the grain still contains preserved DNA that can provide answers about its origins and potential refinement. These world-class research institutes can provide us with answers about the past.

(Text compiled by Anna Broström at Arkeologerna and Carolina Ask at Uppåkra Archaeological Centre, together with Maria Milton, Science Village. The top picture is a landscape reconstruction by Henning Cedmar-Branstedt. It shows what the Science Village site looked like around 5,000 years ago.)

Would You like to know more?

If you have an interest in history and archaeology you can visit the Arkeologernas or Uppåkra websites to learn more, or read the archaeological report on the excavations in the area at the Swedish National Heritage Board.

Uppåkra Arkeologiska Center
Kulturarvsdata Riksantikvarieämbetet