anna kjellström

Anna Kjellström


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Works at Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Telephone 08-16 12 93
Visiting address Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7
Room 218
Postal address Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur 106 91 Stockholm

About me

The Urban Farmer

My doctoral thesis The Urban Farmer (2005) examined the transformation characteristics of the early medieval town Sigtuna interpreted in a socioeconomic perspective.

At the end of the 10th century the first Swedish town Sigtuna was founded, which can be recognized as the beginning of urbanization in the Mälaren valley. Christianity was growing strong and the administrative power was probably concentrated to a few magnates gathered around a king. Though Sigtuna played an important religious and political role, the time of prosperity was short and at the end of the 13th-early 14th century the importance of the town declined. The ambition with the present thesis has been to investigate the demography of the human skeletal material excavated in Sigtuna during the period 1983-1999. The skeletons from 528 individuals from six cemeteries dated to the end of 10th century to the early 16th century have been analysed. The material was subdivided into three chronological development phases synonymous with the establishment, the peak of prosperity and the decline of the town. Well-recognized anthropological techniques were applied together with a health index and chemical tests such as stable isotopes and trace elements. The main aims were to investigate:

Differences in the material between contemporary inhabitants in Sigtuna,

Differences in the material between the different chronological phases,

Differences between the osteological results achieved from Sigtuna and results from other skeletal materials and if the results can be connected to the indications of urbanization.

The results showed that:

Some differences between contemporary cemeteries are discernable. Variations in stable isotopes suggest dietary differences between the women at different cemeteries. Furthermore, differences in age- and sex distribution, and mean stature are discernable between some of the contemporary samples and even within a cemetery. The discrepancies may be related to prevailing social structures in Sigtuna.

A decline in health through time is demonstrated. The negative trend is particularly marked for women. In addition demographic changes suggest an increased migration of adults to Sigtuna. The health deterioration may be connected to e.g. increased population density and an increased risk of infections.

In comparison with other materials the anthropological results, including the health index, suggests that the inhabitants in Sigtuna showed an urban pattern and that the quality of life, at least in the initial phase, was relatively good.

The sex distribution shows a generally male dominance possibly caused by selective excavations except at the oldest site without an adherent church. The uneven sex distribution may, alternatively, be a result of the urban character of Sigtuna i.e. a Christian and political administrative centre. The osteological results are in line with the archaeological and historical data. It is suggested that the consequences of urbanization such as immigration, deterioration of health and social ranking, implied by several osteological parameters and the chemical analysis, acted differently through the gender lines.

Current projects

I am participating in several projects on both a national and international level.

The Global history of health project deals with changes of human health in Europe from the late Paleolithic era to the early twentieth century. Anthropologists and scholars outside the field of anthropology are collecting osteological information from approximately 60 000 skeletons, related to over 350 localities, which will be the basis for reinterpreting the health history of Europe.

I am, together with three other Swedish archaeological scientists, working as an editor for the publication of an anthology of medieval studies from Stockholm University.
During 2006/2007 I am responsible for the osteological research at an excavation in Sigtuna, Sweden.

Presently, I am a substitute lecturer at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.

Global History of health Project


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • Petra Molnar, Anna Kjellström. American Journal of Physical Anthropology
  • 2015. Caroline Arcini (et al.). Environment, Society and the Black Death
  • 2015. Anna Kjellström (et al.). Skeppet staden stormakten., 53-61
  • 2014. Anna Kjellström. The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict, 237-251
  • 2014. Anna Kjellström. European Journal of Archaeology 17 (1), 45-59

    Vikings with artificially modified teeth have previously been documented in the south-eastern parts ofScandinavia and in England. In a project dealing with life in the Mälaren Valley in Sweden duringthe period AD 750–1100, new cases of people with modified maxillary teeth were observed. Thehypothesis that the practice was entirely associated with adult men dating to the Viking Age was tested.The new cases demonstrate that the habit extended to eastern-central Sweden, including the proto-townof Birka, perhaps as early as in the middle of the eighth century. Additionally, cases from Sigtuna showthat the practice may have ended as late as the beginning of the twelfth century. A microanalysis, usinga scanning electron microscope, showed the heterogeneous character of the modifications. The affectedindividuals were all adult men, similar to previously published cases. Some of the men are associatedwith weapons and violent acts and the cases from Sigtuna were all from cemeteries with a possibleassociation with lower social strata. However, discrepancies in archaeological contexts and in the charac-teristics of the modifications suggest temporal and spatial variation in the social meaning of themodifications.

Show all publications by Anna Kjellström at Stockholm University

Last updated: October 16, 2018

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