Among the archaeological remains from the Early Neolithic Funnel Beaker Culture in Mälardalen and Bergslagen there are sites that can be interpreted as settlements, hunting stations, fishing stations, burial sites and offering fens. These different kinds of sites should not be considered as isolated points in the landscape, but rather as places connected through an intricate system of forest trails and paddling routes, paths that humans and their livestock travelled between homesteads, villages, and seasonal sites. Eventually, they travelled the same paths with the bodies of their dead relatives, to be buried at ritual sites on islands in the archipelago. On all these places and routes, each individual has been part of different social settings defined through participation in common engagement. Different locations in the landscape have therefore been the arena for different communities of practice and social configurations, the composition of which were dependant on the cultural practices performed, and which individuals these tasks brought together.
Funnel Beaker settlements in different topographic and ecological settings contain find material associated with different subsistence practices. Thus, on sea-facing sites bones from seal and fish are common, while on land-facing settlements bones from cattle and sheep/goat dominate and traces of cultivation, and processing of cereals are abundant. Osteological and botanical data are often interpreted in terms of subsistence economy and diet, but my purpose is rather to discuss the activities connected with for example sealing, fishing, cattle herding and cultivation as cultural practices. Cultivation of cereals has involved activities like the clearance of forest, sowing, possibly weeding and guarding against birds and forest animals, harvesting and later processing of cereals, tasks that may have gathered the participating individuals into communities of potentially different composition. The engagement in the cultural practices of cultivation contributed to form aspects of the participants' identities. Engagement in agricultural practices may have had a specific significance in the beginning of the Early Neolithic, as the participants knew that these had not been performed by their ancestors, but also because groups living just to the north of the TRB in Mälardalen and Bergslagen choose not to adopt cultivation and cattle rearing at this point in time.
One aspect of seal hunting and fishing during the Early Neolithic may rather have been to reconnect to an historical or mythical origin. The seal hunting in the archipelago and the spring netting of spawning pike created a link to past generations who hunted seal among the same skerries, and netted pike on the same spring-flooded meadows. In some ways also the new subsistence practices related to the past, as the first clearings for cultivation were made in a forest crossed with paths, memories and myths. The meadows that during spring flooding were the location for catching spawning pike may have been used for grazing cattle later in the summer, strange beasts that were made indigenous by being incorporated into the local context with its places and stories.
As less time was spent by the sea, a new type of burial site was established on islands in the archipelago like at Fågelbacken. The topographic location of these places reconnects to a geographical setting that may have been viewed as a place of (mythological) ancestry for the Early Neolithic people. According to this interpretation, people who lived part of the year at agricultural farmsteads in the interior brought their dead to rest on communal burial sites in the archipelago, where the ancestors once lived their lives as seal hunters and fishermen.
The material culture of the Funnel Beaker Culture of Mälardalen contains local variants of artefacts of a repertoire that is common for the larger part of the Early Neolithic TRB complex. Among these are funnel beakers, collared flasks, clay disks, four-sided polished axes with a pointed/thin neck, polygonal battle-axes and saddle-querns.