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Dwelling places and graves dating from the Stone Age, lasting until about 1,800 BC, are found today in increasing numbers.The Bronze Age was marked in the Nordic region – especially in Denmark but also in Sweden – by a high level of culture, shown by the artifacts found in graves.Fourteen thousand years ago, Sweden was still covered by a thick ice cap. Ale’s stones pictured here are from the Iron Age – before Vikings, war-hungry kings, peace and the race into modernity.From 8,000 BC to 6,000 BC, Sweden as a whole became populated by people who lived by hunting, gathering and fishing, and who used simple stone tools.Since the dissolution of the Kalmar Union, Swedish foreign policy had been aimed at gaining dominion over the Baltic Sea, leading to repeated wars with Denmark from the 1560s onward.

One consequence was emigration, mainly to North America.The act provoked a rebellion, which in 1521 led to the deposition of Kristian II and the seizure of power by a Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, who was elected king of Sweden in 1523.The foundations of the Swedish state were laid during the reign of Gustav Vasa (1523–60).The Viking Age (800–1050 AD) was characterised by a significant expansion of activity, in Sweden’s case largely toward the east.Many Viking expeditions set off from Sweden to both plunder and trade along the Baltic coast and the rivers that stretched deep into present-day Russia.The various provinces of Sweden were absorbed around 1000 AD into a single unit, but the crown began to gain significant influence only during the late 13th century.In 1280 King Magnus Ladulås (1275–90) issued a statute authorising the establishment of a nobility and the organisation of society on the feudal model.However, Sweden had a largely agrarian economy and lacked the resources to maintain its position as a great power in the long run.After its defeat in the Great Northern War (1700–21) against the combined forces of Denmark, Poland and Russia, Sweden lost most of its provinces on the other side of the Baltic Sea and was reduced essentially to the same frontiers as present-day Sweden and Finland.In 1397, the Kalmar Union was formed, with the three Scandinavian countries under a single monarch.However, the union (1397–1523) was scarred by internal conflicts that culminated in the ‘Stockholm Bloodbath’ in 1520, when 80 Swedish nobles were executed at the instigation of the Danish union king, Kristian II.

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