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Archaeology of Dwelling: The dynamics between house and society in prehistoric Scandinavia (completed)

The project examines Scandinavia’s later prehistory from the point of view of the house. How can studying architecture and households generate new knowledge about large-scale social and political development through prehistory?

Exterior of the Iron Age hall

The reconstructed Iron Age hall from Borg, Lofoten. Photo: Marianne Hem Eriksen

About the project

Archaeology of Dwelling: Architecture, household, and social structure in Scandinavia through deep time, 1800BCE-1000CE

Archaeology of Dwelling (ArchDwell) springs from an apparent paradox: How and why could a specific form of dwelling – the three-aisled longhouse – survive in Scandinavia for almost three thousand years, from the early Bronze Age (1700-500BCE) throughout the Iron Age (500BCE-1050CE); simultaneously as Scandinavian societies underwent ground-breaking social, ideological, and political changes?

In pre-industrial societies, the house frequently constitutes a primary vehicle for social and symbolic production, and constitutes a cosmological, economical, and political node. In prehistoric Scandinavia, the basic plan of the three-aisled longhouse was built and rebuilt through almost three millennia, seemingly unaffected by macro-scale social events such as the collapse of élite networks in the late Bronze Age, the introduction of iron and an apparent egalitarian social order in the pre-Roman Iron Age, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, a cataclysmic climate disaster in the 6th century, and Viking raids and colonization towards the end of the first millennium.


ArchDwell is concerned with the connection between architecture, households and society. The project will use the three-aisled longhouse of prehistoric Scandinavia as a prism to investigate the dynamics and tensions between, on one hand, societies undergoing significant, macro-scale alterations, and on the other, the apparent conservatism and resilience of the built environment through deep time.


FRIPRO Mobility grant co-funded by the Research Council of Norway and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions' COFUND scheme. Project no. 251212.


University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research


Dec. 2016 - Dec. 2019.

Published May 28, 2018 12:27 PM - Last modified Jan. 11, 2021 8:43 AM