Project Announcement: Innovation Processes and Knowledge-Transfer Systems within South Scandinavian Stone Age Mobility

Anders Högberg (Linnaeus University, University of Johannesburg), Kristian Brink (Sydsvensk Arkeologi), Torbjörn Brorsson (Ceramic Studies, Sweden) and Helena Malmström (Uppsala University)

From south Scandinavian archaeological data, we know of numerous migration events from c. 4100 to 1700 BCE that impacted and affected humans and their material lives. They occurred in specific situations that varied along multiple spatio-temporal scales with different rhythms in various contexts. With the Innovation Processes and Knowledge-Transfer Systems within South Scandinavian Stone Age Mobility project, we will generate new knowledge about transformation processes involved in these events, as interpreted from large-scale contract archaeological excavation records and archaeogenetic data. Especially, we will:

  • analyse extensive large-scale contract archaeological excavation records to infer innovation processes and knowledge-transfer systems at different spatio-temporal scales
  • generate new and use existing archaeogenetic data to investigate population change
  • explore how spatio-temporal variation in mobility, population change and changes in human being’s material lives correlate with each other
  • re-theorize and test various models on Stone Age migration against our results
  • build a conceptual framework to interpret transformation processes related to innovation and knowledge-transfer within south Scandinavian Stone Age mobility.

Our results will help us to understand in what ways mobility, population change, knowledge and innovations depended on and influenced each other. We expect our results to stimulate new ways of understanding mobility from a long-term perspective, as well as migration in other (pre)historic periods and, tentatively, also in modern society.


The period between c. 4100 to 1700 BCE in south Scandinavia exhibits profound changes in terms of social transformation events, ranging from a pre-agricultural way of living to Bronze Age elite society (Sørensen 2014). From >4000 BCE, archaeological evidence indicates long-distance contacts. Foraging lifeways dominated, but variations in material culture on a local and regional level indicate an increase in territorial boundaries and a more sedentary population (Andersson et al. 2016). From 4000 to 3800 BCE (with the introduction of the Funnel Beaker Culture), we see gradual changes in landscape use with introduction of agriculture, farms, and collective landscape use manifested in large ritual and burial sites (Sørensen 2014). It is not clear how these changes relate to mobility, but a few hundred years after we have the first archaeological evidence of agriculture and cattle in south Scandinavia (Gron et al. 2020), data indicate genetic relationships with farming groups on the Continent (Skoglund et al. 2014). From the third millennia BCE, a move away from collective landscape use reveals changing relationships and new arenas of social interaction and contact (Vandkilde 2007; Brink 2009). These changes are linked to the Pitted Ware Culture (PWC) and the Swedish-Norwegian Battle Axe Culture (BAC). In some regions, PWC hunter-gatherer groups seem to have lived in parallel with farming groups, whereas in other areas a more transformative lifestyle emerged. Groups in Eastern Sweden were genetically distinct, and closely resemble those of Mesolithic Scandinavian hunter-gatherers (Coutinho et al. 2020). In other regions, this pattern is less distinct (Allentoft 2020). Individuals from BAC contexts show genetically close relations with sampled individuals from Corded Ware Culture contexts (CWC), indicating population change and migration (Malmström et al. 2019). Parallel to these evidences of transformation processes, we also have archaeological evidence of long-term continuity in landscape use related to monumental burial sites, ritual places and procurement sites of raw material for tool production which lasted for thousands of years (Högberg et al. in print).

Evidently, we have extensive spatio-temporal evidence for continuity as well as variation in material culture and landscape use indicating multiple transformation processes during the period from 4100 to 1700 BCE. We also have important knowledge about gene flow between populations, and multiple evidence of prehistoric human interaction. But, we do not know how migration impacted and affected humans and their material lives, and we do not fully understand how this played out in terms of changing relationships and social interaction within south Scandinavian Stone Age mobility.

Stone Age mobility

With the so called ‘third science revolution’, migration has found a renewed place in archaeology and researchers have gained access to rich archaeogenetic data that contribute to re-writing our knowledge of human genetic prehistory (Daniels 2022). Initially, archaeogenetic results were presented in general terms of linear inheritance and population replacement (Skoglund et al. 2012; Haak et al. 2015), overlooking the differences involved in creating comparative genetic profiles of individuals and populations, and integrating such data into interpretative frameworks. Naïve interpretations of migration and its spatio-temporal impact and effect on humans and their material lives were presented. Consequently, these studies are criticized for their lack of theoretical engagement as well as for neglecting archaeological evidence (Furholt 2018). This has since changed, and a wider range of aspects involved in Stone Age mobility are now analysed. Studies have shown that an understanding of individual genetic history does not equate to large-scale population history, that the effects of migration vary across spatio-temporal scales, and that variability in the archaeological record does not always go hand-in-hand with genetic change (Furholt 2017; Johannsen et al. 2017; Kristiansen et al. 2017; Malmström et al. 2019; Friis-Holm Egfjord et al. 2021).

Evidently, we know more today than we did only a decade ago. But, even though our knowledge has increased significantly, we still need a comprehensive data- and theory-driven framework to understand this new knowledge. Researchers have urged archaeology to go beyond binaries and to embrace new techniques as powerful tools for exploring the Stone Age in new ways, pointing to the fact that archaeogenetic studies have matured in their approaches (Crellin & Harris 2020). While several researchers have suggested ways to move forward in this direction (Daniels 2022), few studies have actually implemented such approaches (but see Kristiansen et al. 2022).

A ‘good-to-think-with’ model

Human migration is the movement of people and their thoughts, relationships and materiality – in large groups, smaller units or as individuals over long distances or internally within a region. Reasons for migration vary and migration itself may be forced or voluntary. Patterns of movement reflect the conditions of a changing world and impact the ways in which people interact and establish relationships. These patterns are again modified through social interactions (Daniels 2022).

At their core, theories of migration are outlined from either a macro- or a micro-analytical perspective. While macro-theoretical approaches refer to large-scale changes for human society, micro-theoretical approaches focus on the individual and small-scale transformative changes in human social and material lives (Portes 2008). As Castles (2010) emphasises, a conceptual framework for migration studies should consider transformation processes across various scales as a central aspect in exploring complexities involved in mobility.

A reasonable hypothesis is that shifting forms of mobility were in play throughout various spatio-temporal settings from 4100 to 1700 BCE. As we still do not fully understand the specific forms of Stone Age mobilities we are dealing with, or their impact and effect on humans and their material lives, we need an approach that accounts for spatio-temporal variation. We also need an approach that helps us to distinguish lines of change brought about by migration, from those produced by other forms of cultural transfer (Burmeister 2000). In this project, we take our starting point from a ‘good-to-think-with’ model that suggests a range of impacts and effects related to migration. See Table 1. From this, we will investigate some of the innovation processes and knowledge-transfer systems involved in mobility.

Table 1. Various scenarios of transformation by migration, related to potential impact and effect in technology, and social transformation (from Högberg et al. in Press).

High-quality data

At our disposal we have full, easy first-hand access to considerable quantities of previously underused high-quality data available from substantial numbers of large-scale contract archaeological excavations done in south Scandinavia. The focus for a detailed analysis is the Malmö area, a well-known region in Stone Age research (Sørensen 2014). See Figure 20. Excavations here have resulted in systematically investigated and -analysed archaeological material unique for northern Europe (Nilsson & Rudebeck 2010). Our project is innovative in using this data.

Figure 20: Map with south Scandinavia with Malmö area (dot) enlarged, and quality of sites exemplified.

Expected outcomes

Our approach will allow us to explore impacts and effects related to transformative social relationships and patterns of interactions from micro- and macro-analytical perspectives, comparing the events of specific times and places with trends over larger scales. All in all, this gives us an empirical basis to re-theorize migration and to establish a conceptual framework with which to interpret transformation processes related to innovation processes and knowledge-transfer systems within south Scandinavian Stone Age mobility.

Our three-year-project was initiated in 2022. It is funded by The Swedish Research Council (project number 2021-01522).


  • Allentoft, M.E. 2020. Genetic sex and haplogroup identification of the Pitted Ware culture human upper jaw from Kainsbakke, Denmark. (red) Klassen: The Pitted Ware Culture on Djursland. Supra-regional significance and contacts in the Middle Neolithic of southern Scandinavia. Århus: Aarhus University Press.
  • Andersson et al. 2016. Early Neolithic Landscape and Society in South-West Scania – New Results and Perspectives. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology. 18: 23–114.
  • Brink. 2009. I palissadernas tid. Om stolphål och skärvor och sociala relationer under yngre mellanneolitikum. Malmö: Malmö Museer.
  • Burmeister, S. 2000. Archaeology and Migration. Approaches to an Archaeological Proof of Migration. Current Anthropology, 41(4): 539–67.
  • Castles, S. 2010. Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10): 1565–86.
  • Crellin, R.J. & Harris, O.J.T. 2020. Beyond binaries. Interrogating ancient DNA. Archaeological Dial., 27:37–56.
  • Coutinho et al. 2020. The Neolithic Pitted Ware culture foragers were culturally but not genetically influenced by the Battle Axe culture herders. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 172(4): 638–49.
  • Daniels, M. J. (eds) 2022. Homo Migrans. Modeling Mobility and Migration in Human History. Albany: State University of New York.
  • Friis-Holm Egfjord, A. et al. 2021. Genomic Steppe ancestry in skeletons from the Neolithic Single Grave Cutlure in Denmark. PLoSONE, 16(1):e0244872.
  • Furholt, M. 2017. Translocal Communities – Exploring Mobility and Migration in Sedentary Societies of the European Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Prehistorische Zeitschrift 92(2): 304–21.
  • - 2018. Massive Migrations? The Impact of Recent aDNA Studies on our View of Third Millennium Europe. European Journal of Archaeology, 21(2): 159–91.
  • Gron et al. 2020. Farmers at the Frontier. A Pan-European Perspective on Neolithization. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Haak et al. 2015. Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature, 522(7555), 207–11.
  • Högberg et al. in Press. Flint extraction at the beginning of Early Neolithic in southwestern Sweden. Transregional practices on a local scale. Accepted for Antiquity.
  • Johannsen et al. 2017. A composite window into human history. Better integration of ancient DNA studies with archaeology promises deeper insights. Science. vol 356, issue 6343: 1118–20.
  • Kristiansen et al. 2017. Re-theorising mobility and the formation of culture and language among the Corded Ware Culture in Europe. Antiquity, 91(356): 334–47.
  • Kristiansen et al. 2022. Corex. The European Archaeologist, 72: 51–4.
  • Malmström et al. 2019. The genomic ancestry of the Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture people and their relation to the broader Corded Ware horizon. Proceedings of the Royal Society B,
  • Nilsson & Rudebeck. (eds.) 2010. Arkeologiska och förhistoriska världar: Fält, erfarenheter och stenåldersplatser i sydvästra Skåne. Malmöfynd 19. Malmö Museer.
  • Portes, A. 2008. Migration and Social Change: Some Conceptual Reflections. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(1096).
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  • Skoglund, P. et al. 2014. Genomic diversity and admixture differs for Stone-Age Scandinavian foragers and farmers. Science 344:747–750.
  • Sørensen. 2014. From hunter to farmer in Northern Europe. Migration and adaptation during the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Volume 1. Acta Archaeologica Vol. 85:1.
  • Vandkilde. 2007. Culture and Change in Central European Prehistory, 6th to 1st millennium BC. Aarhus Press.


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Introducing COFFEA: The Collaborative Forum for European Archaeologists

Vana Orfanou (COFFEA Editor)

Image above adapted from Under Construction Grunge Sign by Free Grune Textures. Image source under CC BY 2.0 licence

Do you have opinions about the decolonisation of archaeology, the repatriation of cultural heritage or the working conditions of early career academics in archaeology that you still haven’t shared on social media? Are you looking to engage in a meaningful exchange of ideas about all things archaeology with colleagues in a safe space? The EAA has you covered!

We are excited to announce that in September 2022 the EAA will be launching the Collaborative Forum for European Archaeologists (COFFEA), a new online space for archaeologists to interact and exchange views on current topics in archaeology. COFFEA will act as a platform for facilitating discussions between EAA members about topical issues in European archaeology, which will - by nature - often extend to issues relevant to the global archaeological community.

Each month, we will be choosing a topic for discussion on which will be inviting a small group of archaeologists of all career stages and professional paths to share their views. This will form the basis for a blog post that will be available on the EAA website and on which all EAA members will have the opportunity to comment and share their own views. A summary of these asynchronous discussions will be shared in TEA.

If you already have ideas about topics or themes you would like to see featured on COFFEA, feel free to contact us at Watch this space as we roll out COFFEA in autumn 2022!

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TEA Photojournalism Competition

Are you TEA’s next photojournalist of the year? Submit one image (photo or drawing) in portrait format alongside a max 500-word text, and find out!

One hundred years ago, archaeologists used shovels and spades, pick axes and pith helmets. Today, alongside a host of new gadgets we are still using similar tools, still wearing sensible headgear and still exploring a rapidly changing world.

In honour of TEA’s new covers, the EAA is sponsoring a photojournalism competition on the theme of WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF ARCHAEOLOGY IN 2023?

Is it animal, vegetable or mineral? Is it technological? Is it old school? Is it people (living or dead)? Is it hand-drawn, or computer rendered? What image reflects the essence of what it means to be an archaeologist or to do archaeology in the modern world?

How to enter

Submissions should be made by email to by 10 December, 2022 at 23:59 CET. Each entry should include a single high-resolution (600 DPI) portrait-style image (.tif or .png) with an accompanying text (max 500 words). The text should describe the subject matter of the photo, as well as its location and archaeological relevance. Some short time should also be spent on describing why it represents the spirit of archaeology in 2023. The text should be a .docx file, and should also include a thumbnail of the image described. In your email text, please state your full name, institution (if you wish it to be posted) as well as your EAA membership number. Please include ‘TEA Photojournalism competition 2023’ in the subject line of the email. By submitting an image to the competition, you confirm that you have or have obtained copyright permission, and that you provide permission for TEA to print the image in question as a cover, should your entry be among the winners

What you can win

The three winning entries will have their EAA membership fees waived for 2023. The images will feature on the winter, spring and summer issues of TEA, and will be announced as TEA’s Photojournalists of 2023.

Rules of the competition

  • You must be a current EAA member to enter. Each member may submit a maximum of two entries.
  • You may only submit an image on your own behalf.
  • You must have copyright permission for the image and you must agree to provide permission to TEA to reprint the image. This includes the possibility of the image being included in a future issue of TEA spotlighting the entries of the competition.
  • All subject material which answers the competition theme will be considered, though it must also be appropriate to being a cover of TEA.

Judging criteria

After the closing date, all submissions will be evaluated by a panel (including both professional photographers as well as archaeologists). Those short-listed will be notified by the end of December that their entry has been selected for the second round of the evaluation process, which will be by popular vote by members of the EAA. Before the voting begins, shortlisted entries will be spotlighted on EAA’s social media channels alongside their texts before the final vote. Winners will be notified in early-mid January.

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