Early Holocene bark-stripping damages as an indicator of large herbivores: Evidence from a submerged Mesolithic landscape in the Haväng area, southern Baltic basin

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Abstract

A unique assemblage consisting of 113 pine samples collected from a submerged Mesolithic landscape in the Haväng area, southern Sweden, was examined to assess the presence of large herbivores, as well as changes in wild-game population density and composition. Bark-stripping damages on prehistoric trees is an extremely underutilized source of information about past game-population dynamics, yet our analyzes of wood samples – dated to around 10 500 cal. yr. BP – shows that such material can be successfully used to study the presence and activities of large herbivores, most likely ungulates. To evaluate our results, comparisons have been made with subfossil peatland trees that grew around 6000 years ago, as well as trees from two present day clearcut logging sites in southern Sweden. Furthermore, studies in a wild-game reserve were performed to recognize and understand different types of damages on trees caused by ungulates. Bark-stripping indicate the presence of ungulates, and the rate of damage is commonly associated with the density of the wild game. Bark-stripping was most frequently observed in the submerged wood material from the early Holocene, where damages were detected in 15% of the trees. In comparisons, 11% of the mid-Holocene trees show bark-stripping damages, whereas marks could be detected in the range between 0% and 6% of the trees from the two present-day clearcut logging sites. Our results show that tree-ring analyzes of prehistoric wood can generate information about wild-game dynamics of the past, and thereby being a valuable complement to more commonly used paleoecological and zooarcheological records.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1670-1680
JournalThe Holocene
Volume31
Issue number11-12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul 14

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Geology
  • Archaeology

Keywords

  • Bark-stripping
  • Dendrochronology
  • Mesolithic
  • Ungulates
  • south Scandinavia
  • submerged landscapes
  • wild game

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