The well in the settlement, a source for human-environmental interaction and palaeohydrological situation in southern Sweden

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Hellqvist, Magnus
Holding Date 04 October 2008

In this paper I present the results from sediment and subfossil insect analyses in investigated wells from primarily Pre Roman Iron Age and Roman Iron Age (500 BC-400 AD) in southeast Sweden. The well has played an important role in the daily life of people for a long time period, from prehistoric time until today. Several of the investigated wells revealed very little or no organic remain, even though the sampled sediment in the wells provided very good preservation conditions. This is an effect of the usage time of the wells in the activity period and some wells must therefore have been used for a very short time. The short usage times for the wells is probably connected to bad construction of the well, low or decreasing water table in the well and/or bad water quality.
In opposite to the situation today, several of the investigated settlements was situated by or close to the sea (Baltic Sea) at the time of activity. Therefore, there is a possibility that some of the wells may have been affected by sea water making the quality of the well water worse, a possible situation that increases as we go back in time. This is also an interpretation in investigations other investigations. Today this has changed totally in the area since Sweden experience heavy land elevation from the end of the last glaciation (Weichsel, stadial III).
In the study presented here, a simple categorisation is used based on the results from the insect analysis, sediments and the construction of the well. The first category is the wells primarily used as water resource for people (and domestic animals) at the settlement. With a more ore less characteristic funnel shaped. The other type of wells are those that in a first stage have been used as water resource for people/animals, but reused in a later stage as water resource for grazing animals. Sometimes the primarily purpose from the beginning was to construct a water pit for the cattle.
When studying wells in the settlement in the prehistoric and medieval landscape, it is easy to reflect over the palaeohydrological situation and the relation between people and water. It is not always a straightforward understanding on the usage of the well and it may be a quite diffuse relation between the well in the settlement and other natural water resources in the landscape. The settlements in the investigation presented here are situated close to natural water resources, so the well must have functioned as an important complementary water resource. Sometimes there is a clear relationship between the settlement and rivers close to the settlement. From this point of view the relation between the natural water resources in the landscape and the well in the settlement is not simple to understand, but the role of water for survival of people and animals is unquestionable, therefore the palaeohydrology is one of the most important parts of the landscape to understand in a geoarchaeological perspective.