Nordic History/The Stone Age

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As the ice receded reindeer grazed on the plains of Denmark and southernmost Sweden, while along the coast of western Sweden, marine resources were exploited. This was the land of the Ahrensburg culture, tribes who hunted over territories 100 000 km² vast and lived in teepees on the tundra. On this land there was little forest but arctic white birch and rowan, but the taiga slowly appeared.

Mesolithic[edit | edit source]

In the 7th millennium BC, when the reindeer and their hunters had moved for northern Scandinavia, forests had been established in the land. A culture called the Maglemosian culture lived in Denmark and southern Sweden, and north of them, in Norway and along the coast of western Sweden, the Fosna-Hensbacka culture, who lived mostly along the shores of the thriving forests. Utilizing fire, boats and stone tools enabled these Stone Age inhabitants to survive life in northern Europe. The northern hunter/gatherers followed the herds and the salmon runs, moving south during the winters, moving north again during the summers. These early peoples followed cultural traditions similar to those practiced throughout other regions in the far north – areas including modern Finland, Russia, and across the Bering Strait into the northernmost strip of North America (containing portions of today's Alaska and Canada).

During the 6th millennium BC, southern Scandinavia was clad in lush forests of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. In these forests roamed animals such as aurochs, wisent, moose and red deer. Now, tribes that we call the Kongemose culture lived off these animals. Like their predecessors, they also hunted seals and fished in the rich waters. North of the Kongemose people, lived other hunter-gatherers in most of southern Norway and Sweden, called the Nøstvet and Lihult cultures, descendants of the Fosna and Hensbacka cultures. These cultures still hunted, in the end of the 6th millennium BC when the Kongemose culture was replaced by the Ertebølle culture in the south.

Neolithic[edit | edit source]

"Thick-neck axe" from Närke, a flintstone axe characteristic of both the Funnelbeaker and the Pitted Ware cultures.

During the 5th millennium BC, the Ertebølle people learned pottery from neighboring tribes in the south, who had begun to cultivate the land and keep animals. Soon, they too started to cultivate the land and, ca 4000 BC, they became part of the megalithic Funnelbeaker culture. During the 4th millennium BC, these Funnelbeaker tribes expanded into Sweden up to Uppland. The Nøstvet and Lihult tribes learnt new technology from the advancing farmers, but not agriculture, and became the Pitted Ware cultures, towards the end of the 4th millennium BC. These Pitted Ware tribes halted the advance of the farmers and pushed them south into south-western Sweden, but some say that the farmers were not killed or chased away, but that they voluntarily joined the Pitted Ware culture and became part of them. At least one settlement appears to be mixed, the Alvastra pile-dwelling.

It is not known what language these early Scandinavians spoke, but towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC, they were overrun by new tribes who many scholars think spoke Proto-Indo-European, the Battle-Axe culture. This new people advanced up to Uppland and the Oslofjord, and they probably provided the language that was the ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages. These new tribes were individualistic with the battle axe as a status symbol. They were cattle herders, and with them most of southern Scandinavia entered the Neolithic. However, soon a new invention would arrive, that would usher in a time of cultural advance in Scandinavia, the Bronze Age.

Timeline of Prehistoric Sweden[edit | edit source]

SwedenEarly Swedish historyMigration PeriodViking AgeVendel eraGermanic Iron AgeRoman Iron AgePre-Roman Iron AgeNordic Bronze AgeNeolithicMesolithicUpper PaleolithicNordic Stone AgeLitorina ageAncylus age