Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Farthest Skerries

The summer issue of Fornvännen just arrived on our doormat. I've already told you about Marianne Görman & Mikael Henriksson's juicy paper on the Celtic god mask and its religious context. I'd also like to direct your attention to Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell's paper: "Mesolithic settlement sites in the Stockholm archipelago" (Swedish with English summary).

Much of Sweden rises slowly out of a depression in the Earth's crust caused by the weight of the inland ice. This means that as long as the sea level doesn't rise faster, land is steadily gained, as I have explained before. It's been known for quite some time that hilltops on the mainland near Stockholm were once an archipelago inhabited by Mesolithic seal hunters. But now Mattias & Roger have done something new and very cool: they've gone to Muskö, a large hilly current island in the Stockholm archipelago. It's only accessible by boat now: in 5900 BC when the shoreline was at 50 meters above the current one, it was veeery far out to sea. Particularly for people who moved around using kayaks. We're at N 59˚, the latitude of southern Alaska and southern Greenland. And what do you think Mattias & Roger found? Mesolithic hunting stations full of knapped quartz! These hunters are everywhere! They seem to jump onto every little skerry as soon as it breaks the surface. And they seem to have been doing it as a constant unbroken tradition ever since the ice melted away 10 000 years ago.

So, the paper is breaking news, and it's also written in the poetic tradition of nature essayists such as Sven Barthel. A Medievalist colleague who usually doesn't care much for prehistory loved it. Highly recommended.

Pettersson, M. & Wikell, R. 2006. Mesolitiska boplatser i Stockholms skärhård. Fornvännen 2006:3. KVHAA. Stockholm.
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