History of Sweden between 500 BC - 1 BC
The archaeological record for the 5th-3rd centuries BC is rich in rural settlements and remains of agriculture but very poor in artefacts. This is mainly due to extremely austere burial customs where few people received formal burial and those who did got little in the way of grave goods. There is little indication of any social stratification. Bronze importation ceased almost entirely and local iron production started in earnest.
A typical Clearance cairn from Eglinton Country Park in Scotland, The climate took a turn for the worse, forcing farmers to keep cattle indoors over the winters, leading to an annual build-up of manure that could now for the first time be used systematically for soil improvement. Fields were however still largely impermanent, leading to the gradual coalescence of vast systems of sunken fields or clearance cairns where only small parts were tilled at any one time. From the 2nd century BC onward, urn cremation cemeteries and weapon burials with various above-ground stone markers appear, beginning a monumental cemetery record that persists unbroken until the end of the Iron Age. Cemeteries of these roughly 13 centuries are by far the most common type of visible ancient monument in Scandinavia. The reappearance of weapon burial after millennium's hiatus suggests a process of increased social stratification similar to the one at the beginning of the Bronze Age.
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.