Archaeology is the study of all the people who have lived before us.
The traces they have left behind consist of everything from objects such as tools, weapons and dress accessories, to ancient monuments as tombs, house foundations, rune stones and even entire landscapes where they have lived.
Archaeology is different from many other sciences as new source material is constantly being added. Archaeological knowledge is created in two ways: new discoveries and new perspectives. The discoveries are usually done during field work through excavations and archaeological surveys, while new perspectives emerge in theories seeking answers to the question why? In their efforts to understand the prehistory archaeologists take the help of many experts like historians of religions and place names scholars but also scientists. The natural sciences help us to analyze skeletons, date finds, such as carbon 14–dating and describe landscapes and habitats. Methods are constantly being improved. Archaeology provides us with a unique knowledge of the variety and complexity that characterize human history from the beginning.
"Never forget that social and historical processes created the genetic pattern we now see more and more of - it's not the other way around."
Jan Storå, professor in Osteology (Forskning och Framsteg, April 2016)
In the Atlas project archaeologists, geneticists and osteologists work side by side. The choice of materials to be studied always begins with an archaeological question. The questions can be general and comprehensive but also touch upon individual human histories. Some groups in prehistory, like children, slaves and the poor, have left few traces. Through DNA and isotope analysis, previously "invisible" individuals can be highlighted and made visible. Equally, the geographical and social mobility of individuals can become visible. The Atlas project gives us a new picture of how various prehistoric societies functioned and the people who lived in them. The results of the Atlas project will re-examine old truths and open unexpected and different perspectives. This new knowledge will be used in various fields of archeology for a long time to come and maybe even inspire and change the way we look at the past.