Bioarcheologist Clara Alfsdotter is visiting the Anthropology Department at Emory for research



Clara Alfsdotter is a PhD student at Linneaus University in Sweden and an archeologist at the Bohusläns County Museum in Uddevalla.

She is working on the excavation site of Sandby Borg, a ring fort on the Baltic island of Öland in Sweden. Excavation is still in the early stages, but fascinating puzzles are already emerging. It seems that the inhabitants were brutally killed while many valuables such as gold, roman artifacts, and animals were left behind and were not looted afterwards.

“It’s intriguing that no females have been found yet,” says Alfsdotter. This absence ties into the questions of how and why this happened and makes the experts wonder what happened since. On top of these mysteries this site is also an exceptional and rare record of the Migration period life inside a ring fort – since the fort was abandoned after the assault, everything has just been left to decay inside the houses and on the streets after that day. Extraordinary details of the everyday life are found. For example, next to one house hearth, the skeletal remains of half a herring was discovered. Was someone brutally interrupted when preparing the food that day 1500 years ago?

Alfsdotter’s focus for this trip is research on learning and developing methodologies and theories for tracing the original position of the human bodies and why they came to rest in the way they did. What was the original position of the corpse and why? Can the acts of the perpetrators and victims be traced? Alfsdotter is at Emory University visiting Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz, who has a long history of archaeothanatological research into how skeletal remains have been affected by taphonomic processes and mortuary circumstances.

Aerial View by Sebastian Jakobsson