Härnevi vicarage, Uppland. Large collection of bronzes, c. 600 BC. Packed into a belt box, wrapped in a leather garment and deposited in wetland. Found in 1902 during drainage digging.
In my work, I really prefer writing over reading, and in order to profit as much as possible from my reading while I remember it, I like to write while I read. Otherwise I just get sleepy and feel like I’m not really getting anywhere. So although I am still just getting acquainted with the research background of my Bronze Age project, I wrote the first couple of paragraphs for my next book today. (Note that I’m already writing in the past tense…)
Sacrificial finds form a fuzzy category that is at heart defined in negative terms: not found in graves, not found as part of the general culture layers at settlement sites. Attempts have been made to distinguish retrievable hoards from irretrievable offerings, the idea being that dry-land hoards are buried secretly and temporarily for mundane rational reasons, while wetland offerings are disposed of permanently to communicate with the gods and often for reasons of ostentatious display. While this dichotomy is an empirical reality in some areas (Levy REF), it is doubtful if the two classes of find should really be seen as exponents of two different modes of thought when we are dealing with a pre-monetary prestige economy (Karsten 1994:30-31). In other words: it is true that some of these finds could have been retrieved, and it is true that we often see different object types in those contexts than we do in bogs and rivers, but it is uncertain (and possibly untestable) whether the two classes of find were really deposited for very different reasons.
Studies of Bronze Age sacrifice have usually focused on bronze and gold metalwork. I have cast my net wider, seeking to identify sacrificial sites from the period and area in question regardless of what sort of materials have been collected from them. For example, the fen at Rickebasta in Alsike has yielded only domestic animal bones, radiocarbon placing them at about 800 cal BC. With a secure Bronze Age date in place, the main criterion for inclusion in this study has been the quality of contextual information, not what was sacrificed. It is not enough here to know on what farmstead’s land a find was made. We need to know precisely from what hill, field or bog the objects and/or bones were collected in order to seek common traits in the landscape location of the sacrificial sites.