Prehistoric Sweden

Prehistoric Sweden

The Pleistocene glaciations scoured the landscape clean and covered much of it in deep quaternary sediments. Therefore no undisputed Early or Middle Palaeolithic sites or finds are known from Sweden. As far as it is currently known, the country's prehistory begins in the Allerød interstadial c. 12,000 BC with Late Palaeolithic hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country's southernmost province. Shortly before the close of the Younger Dryas (c. 9,600 BC), the west coast of Sweden (Bohuslän) was visited by hunter-gatherers from northern Germany. This cultural group is commonly referred to as the Ahrensburgian and were engaged in fishing and sealing along the coast of western Sweden during seasonal rounds from the Continent. Currently, we refer to this group as the Hensbacka culture and, in Norway, as the Fosna culture group (see: Oxford Journal Hensbacka Schmitt). During the late Preboreal period, colonization continued as people move towards the north-east as the ice receded. Archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence suggests that they arrived first from the south-west and, in time, also from the north-east and met half-way.

An important consequence of de-glaciation was a continual land uplift as the Earth's crust rebounded from the pressure exerted by the ice. This process, which was originally very rapid, continues to this day. It has had the consequence that originally shore-bound sites along much of Sweden's coast are sorted chronologically by elevation. Around the country's capital, for instance, the earliest seal-hunter sites are now on inland mountain tops, and they grow progressively later as one moves downhill toward the sea.

The Late Palaeolithic gave way to the first phase of the Mesolithic in c. 9600 BC. This age, divided into the Maglemosian, Kongemosian and Ertebølle Periods, was characterised by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers with a microlithic flint technology. Where flint was not readily available, quartz and slate were used. In the later Ertebølle, semi-permanent fishing settlements with pottery and large inhumation cemeteries appeared.

Read more about Prehistoric Sweden:  Neolithic, 4,000-1,700 BCE, Bronze Age, 1700-500 BCE, Iron Age, 500 BCE - AD 1100

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