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Otto Frödin’s excavations

The osteological assemblage from Frödin’s trench is large, unusually varied and very well preserved (Hallström). It consists of approximately 600 kg of bone, comprising a volume of around 2,5 m³ (Hallström; Browall 2011:70).

The osteological material from Frödin’s trench has not been registered in its entirety in the museum database . The following unpublished analyses are, according to Hans Browall (2011:68 ff) available in the archives of the National Heritage Board (ATA Antikvarisk-Topografiska Arkiv):


1910 Adolf Pira Pub in Frödin 1910 p. 62-64 Excavations 1909


Ludvig Hedell Unpub, ATA Benfynd från stenåldersboplaten vid Alvastra 1910 Bone finds from the Stone Age site of Alvastra 1910. Also describes finds from 1909
1912 Ludvig Hedell Unpub, ATA Redogörelse för de under sommaren 1911 anträffade benfynden i stenålderspålbyggnaden vid Alvastra Report on the bone finds made at the Stone Age pile dwelling of Alvastra during the summer of 1911
1914a Ludvig Hedell Unpub ATA Redogörelse för benfynden från stenålderspålbyggnaden vid Alvastra 1912 Report on the bone finds made at the Stone Age pile dwelling of Alvastra during the summer of 1912
1914b Ludvig Hedell Unpub ATA Redogörelse för benfynden från stenålderspålbyggnaden vid Alvastra 1913 Report on the bone finds made at the Stone Age pile dwelling of Alvastra during the summer of 1913
1922 Ludvig Hedell Unpub ATA Redogörelse för benfynden från stenålderspålbyggnaden vid Alvastra 1919 Report on the bone finds made at the Stone Age pile dwelling of Alvastra during the summer of 1919

Fig. 1. Osteological analyses from Frödin’s excavations.

Hence bones from the excavations of 1928, 1929 and 1930 were not analysed in connection with Frödin’s excavations.

Jan Ekman also analysed part of the osteological material before Mats P. Malmer embarked on his Alvastra pile dwelling project at the end of the 1970s. His results and his reflections on the assemblage are unpublished but are described in a letter from Jan Ekman to Gunborg O. Janzon (Ekman). In his letter Ekman points out that the proportion of domestic animals in the material was over-emphasised by Ludvig Hedell in Otto Frodin’s article of 1910 (Frödin 1910).

The human skull with traces of scalping found in 1917 was analysed by Carl M. Fürst and published together with Frödin in 1919 (Fürst & Frödin 1919). Ebba During studied the traces again in the 1990s (During & Nilsson 1991; During 1993).

In connection with the Alvastra pile dwelling project of the 1970s Arne Hallström was commissioned by Mats P. Malmer to conduct an osteological analysis of the assemblage from Frödin’s trench. He has not published any results of his work, but the archives contain a map of bone distribution (Hallström; Browall 2011, p. 338).

1614 records in the museum database from Frödin’s trench consist of bone, both unburnt and burnt, both animal and human.  These records consist partly of digitised analogue registers of various kinds and partly of work done by Jenna Karhu (see here) and other osteologists employed for shorter or longer periods of time at the Swedish History Museum.

Fig. 2. Bone assemblage from Frödin’s excavations registered in the database (file will be downloaded shortly).

Typ Type
aborre perch
andfågel wild duck
björn bear
bofink chaffinch
braxen bream
bäver beaver
däggdjur mammal
fisk fish
fågel bird
får sheep
get goat
gnagare rodent
gräsand mallard
groddjur frog
grävling badger
gädda pike
hare hare
hjortdjur deer
hornkvick horn core
hund dog
höna hen
idisslare ruminant
Igelkott hedgehog
iller ferret
karp carp
Katt cat
kricka teal
kronhjort red deer
lax salmon
litet rovdjur small predator
lodjur lynx
mal wels catfish
mård pine marten
mårddjur marten
mås gull
människa human
näbbmus shrew
nötkreatur cattle
obestämt undetermined
rådjur roe deer
råtta rat
sik whitefish
sill herring
skogsduva wood pigeon
skogsmus mouse
sork vole
stor skogsmus yellow-necked mouse
stör sturgeon
sutare tench
svan swan
svin pig
sädesärla wagtail
tjäder capercaillie
trana crane
tätting passerine
Utter otter
vanlig näbbmus common shrew
varg wolf
vildkatt wild cat
älg elk


Del Part
falang phalages
halskota, andra vertebra, second
horn Horn/antler
hälben Heel bone, calceneus
höftben coxae
kranium cranium
metacarpal dist metacarpal distal
obestämd undetermined
obestämt undetermined
revben rib
sesamben sesamoid bone
skulderblad shoulder blade
språngben tarsal
strålben radius
tåben toe bone, phalanges
underkäke lower jaw
överarmsben Upper arm bone, humerus
överkäke upper jaw


Material Material
ben bränt Bone, burnt
ben bränt, ben obränt bone burnt, bone unburnt
ben obränt bone unburnt
ben/horn bone/antler
tand tooth

Fig. 3. Translatations


A team of five osteology students spent a 10-week internship in 2018 (see here) working with the rest of the osteological assemblage from this trench.  They sorted the whole material according to the coordinate system used by Frödin and registered around 50% of it. It could not be registered directly in the museum database as a new database was about to be introduced just as they were doing their work.  The material was therefore registered in an in an excel sheet which will later be transferred to the database. The excel sheet (fig. 5.9:4) contains 1090 records.  This registration does not constitute an osteological analysis. The interns have mainly registered contexts and weights, recording genera and species only where they were obvious or had been previously noted (in labels deposited among the bones in the collections) by other osteologists.

Fig. 4. Bones from Frödin’s excavations registered by the five interns in 2018 (file will be downloaded shortly). For translations see fig. 3.

Mat P. Malmer’s excavations

1671 records from Malmer’s investigation consist of bone, both unburnt and burnt, both animal and human. This material was recorded by Mia Ojala, an osteologist at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory of the University of Stockholm, in 2010, long before the present project had been initiated. This database is not primarily to be seen as an osteological analysis. Species and type of bone have been registered if this information was available.  No osteological analysis was conducted in connection with registration. The database can thus not be used to gain an overview of such things as species representation. However, some such overviews have been published.


Ebba During, osteologist at the Osteological Research Laboratory until her death in 2007, has published the assemblage of animal bones from the pile dwelling. Her book, The fauna of Alvastra. An osteological analysis of animal bones from a Neolithic pile dwelling, was her PhD thesis published in English in 1986 as a supplement in volume 12 of Ossa, the journal of the Osteological Research Laboratory (During 1986).

During studied primarily material from the Eastern trench.

Ebba During also analysed the bones from the Western trench, her results being summarised by Hans Browall in Swedish, as far as mammals are concerned (2016:tabell 101).

Eastern- weight, g Western weight, g
Cattle 11121,7 3924,4
Sheep 138,6 38,8
Dog 1,2 5,3
Wild boar/pig 1506,4 464,9
Elk 205,3 4,5
Red deer 1279,8 744,6
Roe deer 53,9 21,6
Wild cat 11,2 1,9
Brown bear 333,6 5,0
Beaver 10,4 3,6
Badger 31,7 14,0
Pine marten 39,5 7,0
Mountain hare 2,5 0,1
Vole 4,4 1,05
Wolf 15,9
Lynx 4,5
Wood mouse 0,4

Fig. 5. Mammals from Eastern and Western trenches


Eastern trench weight, g
Crane 4,3
Heron 0,2
Capercaillie 0,3
Teal 0,2
Wood pigeon 0,2
Meadow pipit 0,1
Tree pipit 0,3

Fig. 6. Birds from Eastern trench


Eastern trench, weight, g
Pike 40,1
Perch 4,3
Whitefish 4,6
Bream 16,0
Tench 0,4
Roach 0,5
Rudd 0,5
Ide 0,2

Fig. 7. Fish from the Eastern trench


During also lists the species that were observed in Frödin’s trench but not in the Eastern trench: Otter, hedgehog, red squirrel, golden eagle, marsh harrier, honey buzzard, tawny owl, woodcock, mallard, pintail, wild goose, whooper swan, swan, wels catfish, silver bream.


Human remains from Frödin’s and Malmer’s excavations

 Ebba During was in the process of making a new study of the human remains from the whole pile dwelling when she died in 2007.  She was working together with Hans Browall in a project entitled “The Alvastra project – microanalytic examination of human skeleton remains” (Browall 2016:137ff).   Her manuscript has been scanned here. Hans Browall has published the human remains from the Western trench in several tables in his book (2016: tabell 103-105).

A renewed study of the human remains from the pile dwelling in general was performed by Sara Gummesson at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, University of Stockholm, in 2018 as part of a project at the the Centre of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Uppsala directed by Helena Malmström  (https://www.swecris.se/betasearch/details/project/201702503VR). Sara identified a minimum 14 human individuals (personal communication, Norrköping, February 2019) which is in sharp contrast to the 45-50 individuals mentioned by Mats P. Malmer (2002:110) and Hans Browall (2003:60).

The following references cited on this page have no web links:

Browall, H., 2003. Det forntida Alvastra. Museum of National Antiquities, Monographs 6. Stockholm.

Browall, H. 2011. Alvastra pålbyggnad, 1909-1930 års utgrävningar. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien. Handlingar. Antikvariska serien 48.  Stockholm.

Browall, H., 2016.  Alvastra pålbyggnad. 1976–1980 års utgrävningar. Västra schaktet. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och antikvitets akademien, Handlingar, Antikvariska serien 52. Stockholm.

During, E., Nilsson, L., 1991. Mechanical surface analysis of bone: a case study of cut marks and enamel hypoplasia on a Neolithic cranium from Sweden. American journal of physical anthropology 84. Columbus.

Fürst, C.M., Frödin, O., 1919. Har skalpering förekommit under stenåldern? Rig. Förening för svensk kulturhistoria. Tidskrift 1919, band 2. Stockholm. P. 193–204.