Described in the 4th century bc as a land offrozen seas and midnight sun, this northerly nation of reindeer herders also produced thefearsome Viking traders of the 9th century. By the 17th century, Sweden, in its Age of Greatness, ruled supreme over the Baltic region. Vanquished by Russia in 1809, the country adopted a more peaceful role and today is heavily engaged in world affairs.
In the last 100,000 years, Sweden has been covered by thick inland ice on at least three occasions.
As the ice retreated northwards for the last time in approximately 12,000 BC, nomadic reindeer hunters moved in to use the newly revealed land, but it was not until 6500 BC that Sweden was entirely free of ice.
Farming was gradually adopted in southern Sweden from 4000 BC, while hunting continued to remain prevalent in the inland areas of Norrland for a long time to come. The first examples of domestic pottery date from this period and burial mounds appeared in the southern provinces.
Finds from the Bronze Age (1800-500 BC) bear witness to increased contact with the outside world. A chieftain society based on power and social alliances began to develop. Magnificent bronze objects, huge burial mounds and cairns with grave goods as well as rock carvings date from this period (seep212).
The transition to the Iron Age in 500 BC saw the first written accounts about Scandinavia. In the 4th century BC the Greek explorer and trader, Phytheas of Massilia, described the journey to Thule, with its frozen seas
and midnight sun. In his Germania (AD 98), the Roman Tacitus refers to the sviones as a powerful people with strong men, weapons and fleets.
With the growth of the Roman Empire, links with the Continent increased and numerous finds show evidence of trade with Rome via the many German tribes in the area north of the Rhine. The fall of Rome and the subsequent period of population migrations saw the rise of small kingdoms across Europe. In Sweden there was a kingdom centred on Uppsala where large kungshogar (King’s Mounds) can still be seen today (l29).
From 800 until Christianity reached Sweden in the mid-11th century, the Vikings took the world by storm. As traders, settlers and plunderers, they set sail in search of land, slaves and treasure. They carried out raids throughout Europe, sailed as far as Baghdad and even reached America. Christian monks wrote of attacks on rich monasteries and towns. But the Vikings were more than wild barbarians. They were also hard-working farmers, traders, experienced sailors, craftsmen and shipbuilders.
Rune stone, 9th century Timeline c. 12,000 BC Thick ice covers 1500 BC Regional the country. As the ice provinces build retreats, reindeer herders barrows and cairns gradually move into the to powerful men southernmost coastal area anci women 12 000 BC 4000 BC 2000 BC AD 500 1000 4000 BC Farming is gradually adopted in the south of the land 3700 BC Burials take place in chambered mounds, creating the first monuments in the Swedish countryside 1800 BC Bronze objects start to be made in Sweden along continental lines AD 98 Tacitus 800 The Viking refers to the period begins sviones in his and the trading writings centre of Birka in Lake Malaren is founded
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