Anna Sörman


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Works at Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Telephone 08-16 29 40
Visiting address Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7
Room 352
Postal address Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I studied to become an archaeologist at the Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg (2007-2011), with a masters degree in Nordic archaeology specialising in development-led archaeology. Thereafter followed doctoral studies at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University (2011-2018), resulting in the PhD thesis "Casting Spaces: The spatial, social and political organisation of metalworking in southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age" (opponent: Christopher Prescott, supervisors: Anders Andrén and Alison Klevnäs).

After the completion of my PhD I have been working as a field archaeologist at Arkeologikonsult AB. Previously, I have also participated in fieldwork in France and Iceland. Since January 2020 Karin Ojala and I are running the research project "Mediterranean Bronze and Närkish Iron" studying societal changes during the transition from Bronze Age to Early Iron Age.

Ongoing Research

The project "Mediterranian Bronze and Närkish Iron" (2020-2021) sets out to investigare the drastic changes in production, use and depositional practices of metalwork that occurred in southern Scandinavia around 500 BC. The trade, production and socio-religious traditions tied to the use of bronze was suddenly abandoned after more than a millennia of continuity and expansion. The Hassle deposit (a sacrifice with foreign prestige metal objects from the final phase of the Bronze Age) is a case study for inqueries of how and why contact routs, metal technology and sacrificial practices changed during this transitional period. The introduction of iron during the Bronze Age is also an interesting topic because it contradicts evolutionary narratives about Progress and cultural advancement that traditionally shaped our understandings of the past, in archaeology as well as in the modern society at large. This research is financed by the Berit Wallenberg Foundation and the Allan Wetterholm Foundation and runs from 2020-2021.

Current research also involvs a minor project developing some of the results from my thesis titeled "Alloying power, casting status - the production locus for Late Bronze Age prestige objects" (funded by the Helge Ax:son Johnsons foundation). Furthermore, I keep engaging in text work and scientific counseling for Arkeologikonsult AB. Together with collegues in southwestern Sweden I am also part of a pilot project aiming to develop a new guide to archaeological sites in the Gotherburg area.

PhD project

The thesis 'Arenas of crafting: The spatial, social and political organisation of bronze casting in southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age' studies how the production of bronze objects was organised, based on a spatial analysis of the phsycial casting places. This reserach builds on a new, extensive survey of casting debris recovered from excavations in Sweden and southern Scandinavia. Through contextual analysis of finds of crucibles and moulds, in combination with a critical review of traditional terminology, the physcial and social contexts of casting are reconstructed. The thesis provides new perspectives on the spread of bronze technology in society, degree of élite control, the role of production in strategies of power, and ties between metalworking and the ritual sphere, primarily during Late Bronze Age.

Research interests

  • Technologies and craft organisation as window to social structure.

  • Settlement pattern, landscape use, and organisation of space in the Bronze Age-Early Iron Age.

  • Political structures, social inequality, and the construction of social prestige, and identity.
  • Bronze Age bronze deposits and values structuring the fragmentation, selection and deposition of metalwork.
  • Archaeological method and critical perspectives on preconceptions in fieldwork and research. The interplay between development-led archaeology and academic research.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • Thesis (Doc) Gjutningens arenor
    2018. Anna Sörman (et al.).

    Production and use of metalwork in southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age (1700-500 BC) has above all been attributed to emerging elites. That bronze was a source and medium for social power is evident from its use in socio-political and ritual spheres, the multiple skills and elaborate aesthetics involved in its crafting, and the arenas for influence and control offered by the acquisition of metals through long-distance exchange. Bronze crafting is often assumed to have been organized at two levels: elite-controlled prestige goods production at centralised workshop sites, set against widespread (controlled or independent) production of utility objects in common households. However, this model is inferred from a functionalist view of finished goods (utility versus prestige) and inspired by anthropological theories, rather than from the material remains of production itself. With evidence of metalworking practices now rapidly increasing due to large-scale contract archaeology, it has become evident that these concepts and interpretations need to be reassessed.

    The aim of this thesis is to develop our understanding of craft organisation through investigation of physical casting sites. Mould and crucible fragments, and their spatial relation to contemporary buildings and other activities, form the main focus of the analysis. I argue that most ceramic casting debris indicates casting loci, and was deposited as secondary waste, or accumulated immediately at the production site. Special, ritual treatment of casting debris is absent, with the exception of complete moulds occasionally found as house offerings in Late Bronze Age longhouses. The Mälar Valley area of eastern Sweden, which has seen particularly intensive archaeological excavation in recent decades, is selected for an in-depth case study, followed by comparisons with other regions of southern Scandinavia. These data demonstrate that bronzes were cast at most, if not all, settlements during the mid-late Bronze Age. Metalworking also occurred at small single farms; a production argued to be dependent on visiting specialists.

    The results reveal complex, user-oriented and multi-tiered craft organisation from Period III onwards. A distinction between prestigious versus utility objects did not structure production. Instead, the organisation and staging of bronze working was shaped by various social roles of the items produced. Rather than special workshop areas, castings were spatially oriented towards future owners. Prestige objects were manufactured in both longhouses and cult-houses within larger settlement complexes, in settings related to the status and gender of their intended users. Further, metalworking often appeared in central and highly visible settings, suggesting it had the character of a performance. I therefore propose that casting –the most dramatic event in the bronze-crafting sequence – was exploited in public or semi-public rituals. Taking into account the social projects and motifs behind new objects, castings were probably linked to transformations such as initiations, inaugurations or establishment of new households. Thus, metalworking played an active and conspicuous role in social reproduction at various levels and in several arenas in the decentralised, heterarchical societies of Bronze Age southern Scandinavia.

  • 2017. Anna Sörman. Artisans versus nobility? Multiple identities of elites and 'commoners' viewed though the lens of crafting from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Ages in Europe and the Mediterranean, 53-78

    ‘Workshops’ and ‘workshop production’ are central to archaeological understanding of metalworking in Bronze Age societies. In this article the concept of workshops is used as a starting point to review preconceptions about the social and spatial organisation of bronze crafting, focusing particularly on how it influences expectations of crafting evidence in the archaeological record. It argues that assumptions of a permanent, customised crafting place hosting the full manufacturing process, as often implied by the term ‘workshop’, are unsuitable for understanding the nature of bronze crafting in southern Scandinavia during the Late Bronze Age. Instead, drawing on evidence from south-eastern Sweden, the craft is characterised as flexible, embedded, and multi-locational. Furthermore, differences in crafting loci between ornaments and weapons are suggested to relate to the initiations of their intended bearers and to demonstrate the heterogeneous organisation of prestige goods production. Such user-oriented production provides an interesting example of the organisation of elite-motivated crafting outside the context of centralised states.

  • 2015. Per Nilsson, Anna Sörman. Fornvännen 110 (2), 84-96

    The excavation of a Late Bronze Age settlement at Rambodal, just outside the city of Norrköping, has provided interesting evidence for Bronze Age metalworking, including the third Bronze Age stone casting mould found to date in the county of Östergötland. The settlement consisted of a single farm with dates from Per. V of the Bronze Age to the earliest Iron Age. In addition to high-quality ceramics, the settlement yielded several traces of bronze casting, such as a copper melt and part of a soapstone mould for a small socketed axe, probably dating to Per.VI. Soapstone moulds are rarely found at settlement sites. The find provides interesting data for discussions of the molds’ use contexts. The evidence for small-scale household metalworking at a minor farmstead like Rambodal holds significant potential for future research on the spread and organisation of this craft.

Show all publications by Anna Sörman at Stockholm University

Last updated: January 13, 2020

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