Södertörn – a maritime landscape in a long term perspective

The area south of Stockholm in central Sweden is called Södertörn. People living here have since the ice age been close to the Baltic Sea. The archaeological traces of the coastal inhabitants are all around in the landscape.

The geological uplift of the land has been rapid in this part of Sweden. The prehistoric archipelago which was visited by Mesolithic seal hunters is today situated on hill tops 70-80 meters above today's sea level. On smooth rocks along former sounds and bays one can also find Bronze Age carvings showing impressive ships and other figures. The monumental grave cairns from the Bronze Age and the oldest part of Iron Age were often situated so that they overlooked the sea. Closely attached to the prehistoric waterways one also finds Iron Age castles, gravefields and harbours.

Along Södertörn's modern coast line there are hundreds of shipwrecks but also remains of "sea inns", fishing habitations and old sea marks. Between the islands and skerries pass the sailing routes that have been used for hundreds of years and in the narrows pole blockages have been raised. The place names in Södertörn have a strong maritime influence and there is a rich living oral tradition about fishing and wrecking.

The Södertörn area is the starting point for a new maritime research project which not only examines specific sites but instead tries to discus the human response to a landscape formed by sea and water.

Dr Johan Rönnby
University college of South Stockholm
Box 4104 Huddinge, Sweden
e-mail: johan.ronnby@sh.se

Further reading

Wrecks south of Nynäshamn, by Julijana Radakovits
The Maritime Cultural Landscape, by Christer Westerdahl

October 1998

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