A rare find from the Stone Age in central Norway

A rare Paleolithic discovery in the middle of Norway

The flint objects with perfectly straight and parallel side edges told the archaeologists that what they found was very interesting. Credit: Celje Elisabeth Fritheim

When archaeologists recently excavated Vingora in southern Trondelaag, they made a surprising discovery they had been dreaming of.

Archaeologist and project manager Celje Elisabeth Fritheim made a bold claim: She said she would eat her hard hat if the settlement they were excavating at Venjura wasn’t a Stone Age find from some of the first people to settle along the Norwegian coast, some 11,500 years ago. to 10,000 years ago.

The first finds to reach the surface looked very promising, large chunks of flint very reminiscent of early pioneer settlements.

However, it soon became apparent that Celje would be closer to eating her hard hat than expected. What they found was something else entirely, much more exciting.

The people of the East

When the Vinjeøra excavations got under way, researchers suddenly discovered artifacts that did not look as expected of a pioneer settlement, but had very different characteristics.

“We found small and medium-sized objects of flint that we refer to as silts and microliths,” says Fritheim, an archaeologist at NTNU University Museum. “Many of them had sharp edges that were so straight and parallel that they could be made with a ruler.” .

“We also found a conical stone core, and there was no doubt that we had discovered a different kind of stone technology than what we associate with pioneer culture,” she said.

Instead, the researchers found evidence from people who came to Finnmark from the east around 9000 BC.

A rare Paleolithic discovery in the middle of Norway

Archaeologists don’t just dig with a shovel. Here, the top layer of soil in the excavation area is removed before ‘micro-drilling’ begins. Credit: Celje Elisabeth Fritheim

Two waves of migration

The ice shadow was longer in Scandinavia than in the rest of Europe during the last ice age. The Norwegian coast became free of ice only about 12,500 years ago. The first humans arrived in what we now know as Norway and Sweden about 1,000 years later.

Analyzes of the skeletons had previously shown that Scandinavia experienced two large waves of migration in the time after the ice retreat began. The first came from the southwest. It was made up of people who lived in modern-day Spain and Portugal during the last ice age and who later moved north as the ice melted. They were blue-eyed, but their skin was darker than that of the Scandinavians of today.

“They populated the entire Norwegian coast as far as Finnmark in just a few centuries,” explains Fritheim.

A millennium later, there was another great wave of migration, this time from the northeast. These are people who traveled from regions around the Black Sea or the Ukraine, heading north through Russia and Finland to the coast of Finnmark. They had lighter skin and varied eye colors.

And they had their own style of making stone tools, which was clearly different from the techniques used by immigrants from the south. This technique eventually took hold and became dominant.

“It seems as if the two cultures met and had something to teach the other. People from the east brought new technology, while people from the south got to know the landscape and way of life along the coast, which must not have been known to the natives.” “People who arrived from the interior to the east,” says Fritheim.

The people of the East seem to have assimilated the lifestyle of those who were already here and, during the first centuries, led a nomadic life in lightweight apartment buildings, perhaps in tents. Their food came from the sea, and it is likely that boats were essential, just as they were to the pioneers from the south.

“DNA studies also show that the two groups are mixed,” said Fritheim.

A rare Paleolithic discovery in the middle of Norway

This is a type of stone hammer, a flint tool that blacksmiths used to forge tools. The technique used by the eastern immigrants was very difficult. It’s something you have to practice with, Fritheim said, and it’s not something you can imitate just by looking at an instrument. Credit: Celje Elisabeth Fritheim

An unusual find

So why is the discovery of artifacts from the eastern wave of immigrants so exciting?

“While we have found plenty of artifacts of southern immigrants – the pioneer culture – along the outer coast of central Norway to the south of the Trondheim fjord, there have been almost no finds in that area that can be traced with confidence to early immigrants from the east,” Fritheim says.

“The only exception is a small settlement near Voldsjoen in Malvik, which was excavated in the 1980s,” said Fritheim.

There is nothing mysterious about the lack of evidence of eastern immigrants on the outer coast. Changes in sea level in the centuries after the Ice Age meant that most of the evidence of settlers along Norway’s western coast during the period 8500–7000 BC disappeared, washed up, eroded or was buried in beach sediments.

“For this reason, there are very few discoveries that can be made of these people between Finnmark and eastern Norway,” says Fritheim.

“In the depths of the fjords, the rise progressed differently, and therefore settlements have been preserved here,” she said.

However, archaeologists cannot decide for themselves where to excavate, so they could not focus their search on the settlements of people from the east. The reason for this is that archaeological excavations are usually carried out in connection with new infrastructure or buildings. This excavation is taking place, for example, because the Norwegian Public Roads Administration is developing a new E39 route through Vinjeøra.

“We’ve dreamed of finding this for a long time and we’ve got a perfect help here,” Fritheim said.

A rare find of the Stone Age in central Norway

This map shows what the sea level and coastline were like 10,200 years ago. The red ring shows the excavation area at Skarbebeken. Credit: Celje Elisabeth Fritheim

Hard hat for dinner?

This writer takes her responsibilities as a journalist very seriously, so I had to put Fritheim in her rightful place. Will she have to eat her hard hat?

“We currently put the age of the settlement at around 10,200 to 10,300 years, based on the local shore displacement curve. So I narrowly avoided having to eat my hard hat, even though it turns out the settlement was something other than what I first thought.” I thought, She said.

Provided by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

the quote: Rare Stone Age Discovery in Mid-Norway (2023, August 22) Retrieved August 22, 2023 from

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