At least that's what most archaeologists believe. But Swedish quaternary geologists have an inkling that there may actually be an archaeological thing or two left that are way older. In the issue of Fornvännen that reached subscribers yesterday, my friend Jens Heimdahl has a paper on the strongest of these indications. Writes Jens:
A geological report from 1964 describes traces of a possible hearth and a wooden stick that appeared modified, found in stratigraphic position below 3 m of glacial till. The discovery was made in 1938 during the digging of a well on the small island of Mårtensön (currently called Laduholmen), in the eastern part of Lake Orsasjön, Dalecarlia, Sweden. ... A radiocarbon analysis of one of the sticks indicated an age of >40 000 years BP, i.e. past the lower date limit of the radiocarbon scale.The operative word here is "interglacial". It means between the ices. Between the last Ice Age and the one before that. A time before Homo sapiens had ventured out of Africa.
In 1964 [geologist Gösta] Lundqvist organised an excavation at the site. The trench exposed a dark silty sediment, with a stick in vertical position, under glacial till, 2.9 m below the modern surface. The sediment was radiocarbon dated to >40 000 BP.
... A possible correlation based on pollen composition between Mårtensön and Öje (a site c 50 km to the southeast) was made in 1988. The site at Öje was allocated to the Holstein interglacial in 1990.
So far the finds from Mårtensön seem to have been unknown to archaeologists. Laduholmen/Mårtensön holds an unrealised potential from both a geological and an archaeological perspective.
If there really are traces of human activity at Mårtensön, then we seem to be dealing with Sweden's first documented Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal site. So I can hardly wait until Jens goes there with a big excavator!
Heimdahl, J. 2006. Spår av en mellanpaleolitisk befolkning i Sverige? Förnyad granskning av Mårtensöfynden 1938 och 1964. Fornvännen 2006:1. KVHAA. Stockholm.
[More blog entries about Palaeolithic, archaeology, Sweden; paleolitikum, arkeologi, Dalarna.]