4. Seal-hunting in the Final Paleolithic of Northern Europe
Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Conditions for Subsistence and Survival (Volume 1) - Per Persson
Erwin Cziesla [+]
Martin Wurzel Archäologie und Umwelttechnik GmbH Büro Ost, Stahnsdorf, Germany
When mapping Ahrensburgian sites in Northern Europe, it becomes apparent that not only the Northern European lowlands but also the margins of the adjacent hilly regions belonged to the total distribution area of this reindeer-hunting culture. Whilst different models are debated, one can assume an annual migration of the key prey species, reindeer, from the more southerly hilly regions into the northern lowlands during the Winter-months where they were protected against increasing temperatures and insect plagues. In the lowlands biserial large-barbed harpoons and reindeer antler axes are found and may relate to a special wintertime toolkit, one missing in the hilly landscapes. In this article the question is raised: Which animal or animals were hunted with these harpoons during winter months? Examples from Scandinavia give important hints for seal hunting during the Final Palaeolithic. In extension of this evidence, arguments for intensive seal hunting in the inner-European, river systems is presented, for instance from Palaeolithic art, from osteological material, and from more contemporary evidence that suggests are previous presence of marine mammals in these inland waterways. It is further argued that seal hunting was of key importance for survival during the Younger Dryas: as food supply, for the production of efficient clothing and – most of all – as fuel for cooking and for lighting in dwellings.