Animals and Humans : Human-animal interaction in northern Sweden during the late glacial and postglacial time

Abstract: When the last remnant of the Weichsel glacier melted in northern Sweden, around 7000 BC, pioneer settlers entered virgin land, following their prey, which in turn followed the vegetation dispersion. Some of the settlers derived from the east and the northeast and spread from the Russian taiga, through Finland and into northern Sweden, the study area for this thesis. Some of the settlers derived from southwest Europe and spread through Denmark, into south Sweden and northwards. These two main flows of people moved in small groups over large areas, close to the ice margin and shared a lithic technology, but with some differences. These differences can be traced in the debris at archaeological sites, along with calcined animal bones. This thesis focuses on the calcined bones and the seemingly most important prey for the southern and eastern settlers respectively, and the changes that occurred during the time frame of 9000-4000 BC. This has been done by identifying Mesolithic sites with calcined bones, selecting bone samples from the assemblages, determining species and radiocarbon dating the samples. The species in focus are reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), elk (Alces alces), beaver (Castor fiber) and seal (Phoca sp.), mainly ringed seal (Phoca hispida), which are the largest and most common species found at the sites. To support the results, previously radiocarbon-dated calcined-bone samples and charcoal samples, found in connection with species-determined bones, are included. This study shows that the people moving in from the Russian taiga in the east hunted terrestrial mammals (reindeers and elks) in the beginning. They continued doing so, even when they reached the coast of the Baltic Sea, where the ringed seal lived at the time. Not until several thousands of years later were the first seal bones left at Mesolithic sites in northernmost Norrland. The people moving in from the south, on the other hand, hunted both terrestrial mammals and seal. Using an additional set of dates from an expanded area in Sweden, together with southern Norway, it is shown that around the 8.2 k BP cold event (6200 BC), the inland settlers changed their prey from a high-ranked prey to a low-ranked prey owing to population growth and climate change.