Researcher portrait, 2010-02-04

New Perspectives on Old Monuments

– Meet Joakim Goldhahn

Associate Professor Joakim Goldhahn, School of Human Sciences, University of Kalmar, has a Project Research Grant from the Swedish Research Council. Here you can read an interview with him.
"My project involves one of the largest prehistoric monuments in Scandinavia — Bredarör near Kivik in southern Sweden (Skåne). It´s a cairn from the Bronze Age, famous for its size and fascinating rock engravings."

"The cairn was once about 75 metres in diameter and approximately 7 metres high, and the rock engravings include over 50 different motifs. Because the rock engravings were found in a grave, in a social and religious context, this reveals something about their function, importance, and meaning."

"My project aims to study this grave and about 300 other Bronze Age graves in Scandinavia where carved rock engravings have been found. Not only have the rock engravings been carved in a particular context, but also many are well dated."

How far have you come?

"I have started to write a monograph on the results of the project. One way to test the presentation and content of the document is to lecture on the various aspects of the project for laymen and scholars alike. I will be doing this during the coming year. At times the fantastic ideas that you have while gazing at a computer screen seem less fantastic when you verbalize them and present them to others. Also, the responses from other researchers and the public help you recognise what you´ve written between the lines."

"Parallel with my research I also teach and am writing a book, for a general audience, about Bredarör at Kivik. The book targets the interested public and addresses the grave´s history and the many colourful researchers who have studied it. Given the lengthy research history concerning this monument it is possible to sketch a detailed picture of how archaeology emerged as a science and has changed over time. And it is equally important to communicate your research findings to those who ultimately finance your research!"

Why did you choose this particular research topic?

"Before I began to study archaeology I has a strong interest in photography and images as a means of expression. That´s apparently the root of my burning interest in rock engravings. We find something universal in the carved images from our ancient past."

"Another driving force behind this research project is my interest in death as a phenomenon that creates meaning. How other people and cultures have related to death reveals something essential about their view of life."

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Updated: 2010-02-26