Exploring human responses to climatic fluctuations and environmental diversity: Two stories from Mesolithic Norway
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionQuaternary International. 2017, . 10.1016/j.quaint.2016.12.019
This paper explores environmental variations in time and space, adaptive strategies and possible cultural responses to climatic changes as manifested through archaeological data in terms of lithic tool technology, site density and settlement patterns. The objective is investigated by two case studies from Mesolithic Norway. The first case deals with the earliest settlement phase of Norway (c. 11,500–10,000 cal. BP), which climatically encompasses gradual changes from cold, arctic conditions, to a milder sub-arctic climate, as well as the rapid Preboreal Oscillation (PBO) cold event. The second case explores the 8200 cal. BP cold event and its effect on culture and settlement in Southeast Norway. The studies suggest that the coastal settlement, in terms of site density, was not affected by either the PBO or the 8200 cal. BP event. Changes in site location patterns seem to have occurred gradually and on a long-term scale. Shifts in lithic technology are detected within the Mesolithic periods, but a correlation between abrupt climatic alterations and cultural changes are yet to be proved. We argue, therefore, that in these northern, coastal environments, declining temperatures may have had less impact than on the Continental Plains, and may in fact have improved the living conditions for a range of marine species. Also, the Mesolithic populations seemed to have employed a generalized lithic toolkit and a flexible mobility system – adaptive strategies that was able to withstand environmental variations in time and space.