Life was good for Stone Age Norwegians along Oslo Fjord

Date:

Share post:

Eleven thousand years ago at the end of the last ice age, Norway was buried under a thick layer of ice. But it didn’t take long for folks to wander their way north as the ice sheet melted away. The first traces of human habitation in Norway date from roughly 9500 BC.

Life was good for Stone Age Norwegians along Oslo Fjord
An excavation of a Stone Age settlement where there was a hut-like structure, dated to roughly 7000 BC
[Credit: Museum of Cultural History]

Steinar Solheim is an archaeologist at the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History who has worked on numerous excavations of different Stone Age settlements around Oslo Fjord. Now he and colleague Per Perrson have investigated longer-term population trends in the Oslo Fjord region, based on 157 different Stone Age settlements. All were inhabited between 8000 and 2000 BC.

The two researchers tried to determine whether the population during this time was stable, or if living conditions were better or worse for people who lived here during different periods.

A newly forested landscape

Solheim says that forests began to grow in this region after 9000 BC.

“The climate was also quite different, and it was probably a bit warmer than it is today,” he said. “We see a lot of hazel, alder, elm, and later oak, all of which are tree species that prefer warmer environments.”

This area of Norway was also much lower in elevation than it is today, since the weight of the glacial ice was enough to depress the land itself. That means the coastline at the time was also higher than it is today. Stone Age settlements were usually down by the water.

Life was good for Stone Age Norwegians along Oslo Fjord
The map shows Stone Age settlements in the Oslo fjord region [Credit: Solheim & Persson,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 2018]

The people who lived here used wood to keep their fires going, and their cooking pits and fireplaces are among the few things that archaeologists can still find after many thousands of years.

But archaeological digs of the settlements also yield stone tools, residues from tool production and remainders from cooking fires. The charcoal from the fires can be used to date the site using radiocarbon dating.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, the researchers used all available dates —512 in total— from the settlements to draw conclusions about population trends for the region between 8000 and 2000 BC.

A stable life

The researchers used a method that relies on radiocarbon dates as an indication of the amount of human activity in an area.

Life was good for Stone Age Norwegians along Oslo Fjord
Excavation of the same hut-like structure as in the photograph at the top of the article
[Credit: Museum of Cultural History]

The idea is to look at the temporal distribution of radiocarbon dates, to see whether the population has been stable or whether there have been major fluctuations in human activity. The researchers also used a simulation-based model to account for oversampling and for comparison.

The researchers use the simulation-based model to see whether dates from the archaeological sites show a stable population over time, or if the dates are actually more randomly distributed.

Using this approach, the researchers found that there was a stable, cohesive population in the Oslo Fjord area between 8000-2000 BC.

A little conundrum

There is also evidence of settlements that are older than this, but researchers have not found any charcoal, which makes it impossible to accurately date the settlements. This presents a bit of a conundrum, Solheim says.

“It is possible that they used something other than wood to cook with, such as blubber, but we just don’t know,” he said.

Solheim says that people may have been more mobile at the beginning of this period, but they eventually settled in more permanent locations.

“Eventually, you get a network of settlements, where some places are more specialized for hunting or fishing or for other resource use,” he said.

Solheim says that they also find traces of more permanent hut-like structures that are surrounded by berms or embankments.

A good life by the sea

If there was indeed a stable population over the millennia in the region, it means that the people living here lived well, Solheim said.

“It appears that they have managed to live quite well on the resources they found along the sea,” says Solheim.

These populations also managed to survive through known climate anomalies that posed problems for other settlements during the same period.

One prominent example is the Finse event, also known as the 8.2 ka event, where there was a sudden and extreme drop in global temperatures starting around 6000 BC that persisted for two to four centuries.

This could have been catastrophic for people who lived here, but Solheim’s analysis shows that the population in the region remained stable in spite of the sudden deep freeze.

Author: Nancy Bazilchuk | Source: ScienceNordic [May 12, 2018]

This article was originally published by ScienceNordic. Read the original article.

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

New pre-Neolithic archaeological site discovered in the Akamas Peninsula, Cyprus

The Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, has announced the completion of the...

DNA study sheds new light on the people of the Neolithic battle axe culture

In an interdisciplinary study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, an international research team has combined...

DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade

Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern...

Examining the geographic origin of mummified baboons in ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, various deities were portrayed as animals. Thoth, the god of learning and wisdom was represented...

Research reveals longstanding cultural continuity at oldest occupied site in West Africa

Stone tools recovered from near the Senegalese coast extend occupation of the region back to 150 thousand years...

Head of Telesphoros found after 34 years

The head of Telesphoros, who symbolized recovery from illness for the ancient Greeks, has been found after 34...

Ancient tools provide earliest evidence of rice harvesting

A new Dartmouth-led study analyzing stone tools from southern China provides the earliest evidence of rice harvesting, dating...

Second restoration phase of Upper Egypt’s Dendera Temple complex completed

As part of a plan by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to preserve the Dendera Temple...