The Use of Aquatic Resources by Early Mesolithic Foragers in Southern Scandinavia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


A long tradition in research on prehistoric southern Scandinavia recognizes full use of aquatic resources in the Late Mesolithic Ertebølle Culture (5500–4000 cal BC): coastal sites are frequently found containing well-preserved fish bones, and isotope values from human collagen indicate a high dietary intake of marine resources. However, recent finds and new methodologies suggest that the view of a terrestrially focused diet in the Early Mesolithic period (9500–6800 cal BC) can be reinterpreted, and the use of freshwater resources is found to be more important than previously known. Aquatic resources can therefore be seen to be a major source of sustenance for foraging societies in Scandinavia much earlier than has been realized previously. At Norje Sunnansund, an Early Mesolithic site located in Blekinge, south-eastern Sweden, large amounts of fish bones have been found, and these have been used to estimate the amount of fish being
caught at the site, by analyzing different rates of taphonomic loss. The results from the excavated part of the settlement suggest that at least 48 tonnes of fish were caught. The large amount of caught fish and the evidence of the means of preparing and storing them provides the earliest example of a large-scale fishing society, and the knowledge required to catch and prepare this volume of fish has further implications at a more structural societal level. A structured society is a prerequisite for the development of sedentism and enables large groups of people to gather during an extended time period. Conservative dietary estimates from the recovered fish bone material suggest that enough fish was caught to sustain 100 adults living solely on fish for over three years.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe
Subtitle of host publicationConditions for Subsistence and Survival
EditorsPer Persson, Felix Riede, Birgitte Skar, Heidi Mjelva Breivik, Leif Jonsson
Place of PublicationSheffield
PublisherEquinox Publishing Ltd
ISBN (Electronic)9781781796030
ISBN (Print)9781781795156
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 28
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameThe Early Settlement of Northern Europe
PublisherEquinox Publishing

Related research output

Adam Boethius, 2018 Mar 16, Lund: Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Lund University. 370 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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