12. The Use of Aquatic Resources by Early Mesolithic Foragers in Southern Scandinavia
Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Conditions for Subsistence and Survival (Volume 1) - Per Persson
Adam Boethius [+]
University of Lund
A long tradition in the research of prehistoric southern Scandinavia recognizes a full use of aquatic resources in the Late Mesolithic Ertebølle culture (5500-4000 BC): coastal sites are frequently found containing well-preserved fish bones, and isotope values from human collagen indicate a high dietary intake of marine resources. However, recent finds and new methodologies suggest that the view of a terrestrially focused diet in the Early Mesolithic period (9500-6800 BC) can be reinterpreted and the use of freshwater resources is found to be more important than previously known. Aquatic resources can thereby be seen to be a major source of sustenance for foraging societies in Scandinavia much earlier than has been realized previously. In Norje Sunnansund, an Early Mesolithic site located in Blekinge, south-eastern Sweden, large amounts of fish bones were found that have been used to estimate the amount of fish being caught at the site, by analyzing different rates of taphonomic loss. The results from the excavated part of the settlement suggest that at least 48 tons of fish were caught. The large amount of caught fish and the evidence of the means of preparing and storing them form the earliest example of a large-scale fishing society, and the knowledge required to catch and prepare this volume of fish has further implications on a more structural societal level. A structured society is a prerequisite for the development of sedentism and enables large groups of people to gather together over an extended time period. Conservative dietary estimations from the recovered fish bone material suggest that enough fish were caught to sustain 100 adults, living solely on fish, for over 3 years.