Prehistoric human impact on wild mammalian populations in Scandinavia

Abstract: This thesis aims to study the interactions of pre-agricultural societies in Scandinavia with wild mammals, for example in terms of hunting and translocation. More specifically, the aim is to investigate the possibility of identifying examples of overexploitation, targeted hunting or translocation of wild mammals in prehistoric Scandinavia, and to discuss the implications this could have had for both the wild animals and the humans. The thesis also studies translocation to evaluate the feasibility of using it as a proxy for prehistoric human mobility, and to understand the motivation for this action. Although the focus is on the animals in this thesis, the ultimate purpose is to study humans and their interactions with animals in prehistory. The thesis applies genetic analyses to zooarchaeological material of various mammalian species from different Scandinavian sites, in order to study whether the genetic structures have changed in these species over time, and to assess whether these changes were induced by different human actions. The species studied in this thesis were selected on the basis of the importance they are considered to have had for prehistoric people.The dissertation comprises five studies. The first study investigates the occurrence of mountain hares on the island of Gotland, and discusses how they got there and where they came from. The second study explores the temporal genetic structure of the grey seal in the Baltic Sea, and discusses whether humans and/or climate were the drivers for the sudden disappearance of grey seals from the island of Stora Karlsö. The third study concerns a shift where moose apparently became less important as prey in northern Sweden at the end of the Neolithic period, and discusses whether humans targeted female moose in hunting. The fourth study analyses and discusses the history of the harp seal in the Baltic Sea. The fifth study is a methodological paper which involves identifying seals according to sex, using the dog genome.The overall result of the different case studies shows that there were major population fluctuations over time in all the species studied, and that in some cases, humans are likely to have contributed to this, e.g. through overhunting and translocation. The study also shows that the population fluctuations often occurred in connection with certain climatic events, though it was not possible to separate climatic effects from human impact in terms of the cause.