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THE ROMAN IRON AGE TAR LOAF FROM ALBERTSRO, SWEDEN – and the Scandinavian Tar Loaves of the Bronze Age

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This paper presents results of the analysis of a tar loaf from the Iron Age settlement of Albertsro, Södermanland, Sweden. The results are compared with the descriptions of previously found Scandinavian Bronze Age tar loaves (Harz Kuchen). The Albertsro loaf was analysed both chemically and morphologically, and was found to consist of birch-bark tar together with pieces of birch-bark and animal fat, both probably added to give the loaf a more easily workable consistency. The loaf corresponds well in both appearance and content with other tar loaves a thousand years older. The place where it was found, in one of the roof postholes of a long house, and its date, in the Early Roman Iron Age, make this loaf a rather unusual artefact. It was probably deposited as a building sacrifice, perhaps as a good luck charm for the house and the area, and it may be an indication that some form of handicraft which involved the use of tar took place in the area. The paper concludes with a proposal that the Scandinavian tar loaves were produced as one stage in the processing of wood, leading to a material for the sealing, jointing and decoration of tools.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arkeologiska Forskningslaboratoriet Stockholms Universitet SE-106 91 Stockholm Sweden [email protected]

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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