Before Farming

Land, water and symbolic aspects of the Mesolithic in southern Scandinavia

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (4), 1–13.

Abstract

The dynamics in the relation between eustasy (sea level changes) and isostasy (changes in the bedrock) combined with deglaciation have had a major effect on the shape of land in Scandinavia. Large areas of the present southern Baltic were land during the Early Mesolithic. From a low level during the Pre-Boreal the water level rose and reached the present situation in the Early Atlantic. The complicated effects of isostasy and eustasy make it very difficult to present an interregional perspective. These relations are best noticed at a regional or even local level. It is only rather recently that any research has been aimed at surveys and consequently the excavation of submerged sites. Results from excavations of submerged sites are presented here, with particular emphasis on work in the strait of Öresund between Denmark and Sweden.

In contemporary Mesolithic studies it is believed that the landscape was not used exclusively as an economic resource; the shaping of the landscape also had an important cognitive dimension. The perception of the landscape is changed by human impact, but also as a result of natural processes, such as shifting relationships between land and water in connection with transgressions and regressions. These processes altered not just the availability of food resources but the landscape itself, especially the boundary between land and water. Such changes must have affected the worldview of Mesolithic peoples and these can be inferred from mortuary behaviours and the placement of rock carvings in the landscape. The excavation of submerged sites is contributing to our understanding of continuity in settlement strategies from the Early to Later Mesolithic, and providing new data for posing questions about belief systems.

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Larsson, Lars