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Slaves in Bronze Age Southern Scandinavia?

In: Acta Archaeologica
Author:
Martin Mikkelsen
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The article proposes that unfree labour was an integral part of Bronze Age society. The presence of the unfree (thralls or even slaves) in prehistoric societies has rarely been discussed and never in the light of archaeological evidence. The article is based on empirical material from 333 fully excavated house remains from 120 sites in the Viborg area in northwest Jutland, Denmark. Based on the reconstructed size of these longhouses, the location of fireplaces, entrances and the subdivision of space, it is suggested that farmsteads, in general, had two, often clearly separated habitation units. In the Early Bronze Age, a longhouse was usually subdivided into two parts, and during the Late Bronze Age, this subdivision manifested in the construction of two longhouses. After a thorough analysis of the archaeological record, it is suggested that the owner of the land had occupied one habitation unit, while the other was reserved for the unfree.

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