Foremost Swedish prehistorian well known for his typological studies of Bronze Age artefacts. Born in Stockholm, Montelius lived all his life in the same house in the town. He attended Uppsala University from 1861, first studying natural science but later switching to history and the Scandinavian languages. In 1869 he was awarded a Ph.D. in history with a thesis in archaeology. By 1863 he was employed on a part‐time basis at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm, moving to a permanent position in 1868. Between 1907 and 1913 he was state antiquarian and head of the Central Board of Antiquities and the Museum of National Antiquities.
Montelius's greatest achievement was in his work on the prehistoric chronology of northern Europe. In this he divided European prehistory into a series of numbered periods, three relating to the Neolithic, and six to the Bronze Age. Initially his analysis was done on the basis of artefact typology. However, he extended the principle of cross‐dating, pioneered by Petrie for Egypt and the Aegean, to northern and western Europe, thus providing a chronological framework for his Bronze Age sequence. He was an exponent of the ex oriente lux theory that innovation in barbarian Europe was generated by impulses diffused from the more advanced civilizations of the Near East, as set out clearly in his book Der Orient und Europe (1899, Stockholm).
B. Gräslund, 1999, Gustaf Oscar Augustin Montelius (1943–1921). In T. Murray (ed.), Encyclopedia of archaeology, I: The great archaeologists. Oxford: ABC‐Clio, 155–64