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30 October 2010
Hidden landscapes of the Swedish Stone Age

Archaeologist Tony Axelsson of the Vastergotland Museum has suggested a new interpretation of the Neolithic landscape of the Falbygden area of Vastergotland, an area of southwestern Sweden known for its concentration of megalithic graves dating from 4000-1500 BCE.
     Axelsson used a geographical information system (GIS) to map the landscape of settlements, graves and other finds. Analysing these maps, he suggests that the passage graves were not intended to be highly visible monuments. "I don't believe that the passage graves were built to take control of the landscape, to make it less dangerous, or as a conscious effort to tame it, that as soon as a grave was built the landscape seemed safe," he explained.
     His maps also suggest that human activity near the graves was limited, with few finds noted from such areas. This, he suggests, indicates that "settlements and passage graves were kept apart from one another - there was some kind of spatial separation."
     Axelsson argues that archaeologists need to characterize living landscapes using descriptive verbs and adjectives to reveal perceptions of landscape that come from mental imagery and senses other than vision, rather than just imagining visual landscapes.

Edited from AlphaGalileo (17 October 2010)

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