Category Archives: Scandinavia

Epipaleolithic paddles found in Danish waters

Paddles are only part of the hoard of objects made of organic materials rescued from what once was an Epipaleolithic settlement of the Ertebølle culture (c. 5400-3900 BCE): undamaged antler axes (right), wooden knife handles and the skull of a dog had also been preserved underwater at that location, with low oxygen levels, just off the coast.

A quite spectacularly preserved paddle:

Video of cleaning a piece of wood at the Moesgård Museum (no sound):

Source: Science Nordic.


Escaping Christian persecution: Norway’s Pagan temple buried before the religious fanatics could destroy it. Now urban developers may flatten it

Artist rendering (credit: Credit: Preben Rønne, Science Museum/NTNU)
I seldom write on Iron Age, never mind the Middle Ages, but this finding has really touched me: a Pagan temple was unearthed in Ranheim, not far from Trondheim (Norway). Its last community run away from Christian intolerance, as is attested by the sagas, but first buried their holy precinct so the theists could not destroy and profane it with their crosses and exotic rituals.
The temple which may have been built c. 400 CE, was used for many centuries and consisted of:

… a stone-set “sacrificial altar” and also traces of a “pole building” that probably housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya. Deceased relatives of high rank were also portrayed in this way and attended. Nearby, the archaeologists also uncovered a procession route.

At first researchers thought it could be some sort of burial mound but they eventually recognized it as a temple.

The members of this community, as attested by historical sources, were probably among the many to flee to Iceland, where there was initially more tolerance. It was in Iceland in fact where many of these sagas were written.

The temple was probably buried under the reign of the first recorded King of Norway, Harald Fairhair (872-930).

The temple may now be destroyed by urban development if something does not stop it quick. Archaeologist Prebben Rønne said:

The location of the [planned] housing could easily be adapted to this unique cultural heritage [site], without anyone losing their residential lots. It could be an attraction for new residents, telling them much about the history of the facility over 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, housing construction is now underway.

It would be indeed a pity and a crime against heritage if the construction is not stopped immediately. 

Sources and further reading: The Archaeology News Network, Yahoo! News.


Ice-free pockets in Ice Age Scandinavia?

Norway spruce
New research suggests that there could have been some ice free pockets in Ice Age Scandinavia, generally believed to have been as completely covered in ice as Greenland is today, and that pine and spruce varieties may have survived in them for tens of thousands of years.

It seems that some modern Scandinavian trees do not have direct southern ancestors but also that there are sedimentary layers with their pollen belonging to the Ice Age. This challenges the generally accepted paradigm that imagined Scandinavia fully covered in snow-ice for much of the last Ice Age. 
For example, the excellent online resource Don’s Maps, shows the following ice cover for the Last Glacial Maximum, c. 20,000 years ago:

Based on Svendsen 2004
Author: Väino Poikalainen, horizontal stripes are lakes

A: The position of the polar timberline in present-day Europe
B: The position of the timberline at the most severe stage of the Würm Ice Age.
C: The limits of glacial debris deposited during the Würm (last) Ice Age.
D: The limits of glacial debris deposited during the Riss and Mindel (earlier) Ice Age.

From: Secrets of the Ice Age by Evan Hadingham, 1980

It seems now that this idea was wrong after all, not just pockets of forest are known to have existed in Central Europe in the LGM but also now it is claimed that even inside Scandinavia itself some forested areas survived all the time:

Two locations in Norway have proved particularly lucrative for the researchers. One of them, Andøya Island, in north-western Norway, is the source of material dated between 17,700 and 22,000 years-old. During the last ice age, the island was an ice-free pocket, one “refuges” on the edge of the enormous ice sheet, which blanketed at that time nearly all of Scandinavia.
“The other evidence, which supports the surviving conifers in the midst of an ice age, originates in Trøndelag, central Norway. One hypothesis is that trees were able to survive on the top of nunataks, the exposed ridges or peaks of mountains protruding from glacial cover, or in more sheltered areas close to the coast where proximity to the temperate conditions of the Atlantic Ocean favoured survival.

Source: Science Daily.