Karlsson Johnny, Spill Om djur, hantverk och nätverk i Mälarområdet under vikingatid och medeltid, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2016 (Stockholm University)
This thesis examines the use of various osseous raw materials in craft activities in the Mälaren region during the Middle Ages. Places studied are: Birka, Sigtuna, Nyköping, Strängnäs and Uppsala. The aim is to capture both chronological and spatial changes in the use of osseous raw materials. Species and materials used reflect regional as well as international networks and how they change during time. The spatial distribution of waste from craft activities, its materiality and temporality mirror activities in different social contexts. Quantitative and qualitative changes in the handling and exploitation of raw materials reflect varying and changing views of its value and how craft and exchange is affected by both a social and economic agency.
In Birka, osseous waste material associated with craft was collected by Hjalmar Stolpe in the 1870s. An examination of the assemblage shows that imported material comprises a significant part of the collection. About a third of the waste consists of imported antler of red deer and reindeer. Red deer is particularly abundant (21%), signifying the importance of southern trading networks. The presence of whalebone can also be linked to south-western trading routes.
The waste material collected during excavations in Sigtuna and representing the period c. 980-1300 has a different composition, reflecting different networks and perhaps different means of trade and production. As in Birka, elk antler constitutes the main bulk of the raw material used. Red deer antler is extremely limited, forming less than 1% of the material, appearing continuously though in small amounts from c. 1020-1300. Reindeer antler is distinctly present in the oldest phase, c. 980-1000. This occurrence might represent a relic of the northern network manifested at Birka. An isotopic study indicates an origin in a forested biotope. After this initial phase the use of reindeer antler becomes as rare as that of red deer until the second half of the 12th century, indicating that the antler craft operated on a minor scale without any demand for long-distance trade in raw materials. A change occurs in the last quarter of the 12th century when large quantities of reindeer antler appear once more. Isotope signatures indicate an origin in more mountainous regions. This coincides with the introduction of another traded raw material of an arctic origin: walrus tusk. The craft had become more marked oriented. This is manifested in larger deposits of debris, a wider range of materials used, including bones from various domestic animals, but also the handling and exploitation of the material changes indicating a different view of production, trade and the value of raw materials than previous. This shift coincides with the introduction of minted silver. Western influences are evident both in the material culture and in the faunal assemblage. It is likely that a majority of the reindeer antler as well as the walrus tusk present in these later phases have a Norwegian origin.
In the late 1100s and early 1200s craft in osseous material occur in other towns that emerge in the region but it seems to appear in new social contexts. Small assemblages of antler debris have been found in Uppsala, but the activities they represent lack the spatial continuity that exist in contemporary environments in Sigtuna and Strängnäs, indicating short lived occasional activities in a loosely regulated urban environment. Craft activities dependent purely on bone from domestic animals appear in the 1200s in Nyköping, Uppsala and Strängnäs. They represent craft activities in a new social context outside the private sphere of the local elite and instead subordinated other craft activities where domestic animals have been exploited on a large scale beyond the domestic household. Antler craft represents a social practise in the realms of the local elite with a continuity stretching back to the Iron Age. Monetization and an increasingly feudal society redefine social relations and practise. This can be seen in the occurrence of craft in new contexts in the late 1100s and 1200s, reflecting heterogeneity in social and economic functions in and between the towns in the region.