6. Waterworld: Environment, Animal Exploitation, and Fishhook Technology in the North-Eastern Skagerrak Area During the Early And Middle Mesolithic (9500–6300 cal BC)
Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Conditions for Subsistence and Survival (Volume 1) - Per Persson
Anja Mansrud [+]
Per Persson [+]
University of Oslo
In this paper, faunal remains and bone artefacts are used as a point of departure in order to discuss the subsistence strategies of the Early Mesolithic (EM, 9500-8300 BC) and Middle Mesolithic (MM, 8300-6300 BC) foragers in the Oslo fjord region of Eastern Norway and the Swedish west coast. This region is a key area in discussions about the settling of present day Norway. Due to the combination of isostatic rebound and global sea-level rise, the North Eastern Skagerrak area is one of the few regions in the world where coastlines dating to the Preboreal and Boreal climatic phases are situated above present day sea-level. This unique contextual situation makes these locales the oldest coastal sites in Europe. Throughout the period, coastal settlements are situated close to the contemporary shoreline, and the location of the sites demonstrates the fundamental importance of the maritime environment. Closeness to fresh water, as well as the possibility of transport and travel along the watercourses may have been equally important. From the coastal areas, different ecological habitats with a variety of maritime and lacustrine resources were within reach. These ancient “waterworlds” offers a possibility to explore the settlement pattern and animal utilization. Organic remains are not preserved at any coastal EM-site, thus the mode of subsistence must be inferred from non-anthropogenic bone collections and paleoecological data. The only EM site with faunal remains is the inland site Almeö in west Sweden, exhibiting a varied economy. In the oldest phase at coastal site Huseby Klev, dated to the beginning of the Boreal chronozone c. 8000 BC, the abundance of marine mammals suggests that hunting of marine mammal was an important part of the diet. The occurrence of cod and ling as well as fishhooks confirms that fishing was also practiced. The importance of fishing seems to increase in the later MM. The MM faunal assemblages exhibit remarkable species diversity with terrestrial mammals, sea-mammals, birds and fish. This is suggestive of a broad-spectrum economy. Due to taphonomic factors, fish bones are most likely considerably under-represented. Nevertheless, there is a large variety of marine fish, in particular different species of the cod-family (Gadidae). The most common fishing equipment from the NE Skagerrak MM is small fishhooks without barb. This could imply that the fisheries were oriented towards cod fishing with long-line, where several hooks were attached to the line. The fishhook and other bone implements were made by antler and ungulate metapodials, thus, these animals provided important raw material in addition to calories.