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Common history for the Nordic countries (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
nordic flags
The home pages for the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nordic
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Common history for the Nordic countries



How did Agriculture and Indo-Europeans reach Norden?
See the page:
The prehistory of Europe
- seen from our Nordic angle

 

2.5.1 Norden in prehistoric times


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ice and water
The birth of Norden
ice, water and mountains
Ice has covered almost all of Norden most of the last 500,000 years. Exceptionally there have been four inter glacial periods, each extending 10,000-15,000 years. The latest period of ice-withdrawal started some 13,000 years ago. (And hence we can expect most of Norden to again become covered with ice within some 2,000 years.)

The pre-history of Norden literally starts when the ice withdrew. Very little has been found from earlier interglacial periods. (Actually a piece of south eastern Jutland never got covered by the ice during the last ice-time, and there traces of human living have been found and dated to an approximate age of a hundred thousand years - but that was The Exception until a recent finding of a cave in Finland used as a human dwelling some 100,000 years ago.) Iceland seems not to have been populated before Viking time - but mind you! The first colonizer then arrived from Ireland and not from Scandinavia.

13,000 years ago hunting and fishing people left traces along rivers and lakes in Denmark and Scania. And from around 8,000 B.C. hunters have dwelled also in western and northern Scandinavia; and in Finland which started to pop up through the sea.

Up to this time there had been a continuous land connection from Britain to Scania, but now (5,500 B.C.) Norden develops into a huge archipelago. Finland emerged as the archipelago on the coast of northern Russia and keeps culturally connected with Russia. Like-wisely Denmark and the southern Scandinavian peninsula keeps connected with western and central Europe. Along the coast of Norway hunters persist more or less isolated.

Around 5,000 B.C. pottery came into use, indicating new methods to store food (Ertebølle culture); and marks of wheat in the pottery suggest the beginning of agriculture, however established archaeology defines the Ertebølle culture as a hunter/gatherer culture which came to persist for centuries beside the agricultural villages of the Pit-pottery (trattbägar) culture.

Agriculture is believed to have reached Denmark and the southern Scandinavian peninsula approximately 4,200 B.C. with wood-burning technique, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, pigs and cows. [ This, and many other datings, is disputed. A recent Danish scholarly work says 4,000 B.C. while a recent Swedish work says agriculture was introduced in southernmost Scandinavia around 3,000 B.C. ]

The megalithe graves are the most visible trace of our prehistoric ancestors, erected 3,700-2,300 B.C. in Denmark and on the southern Scandinavian peninsula. During this period of over a thousand years the agricultural megalithe societies seem to have co-existed with coastal hunters and fishers; obvious at least in Denmark, Scania, along the Swedish west coast, and at lake Mälaren west of Stockholm.

These hunters/fishers stood in contact with Gotland and Eastern Europe, agriculture was not entirely unknown to them and they had domesticated swine. In other words: It is important not to take these classifications and datings too literally. [ A large recent Swedish work dates the megalithe graves to 2,500-1,500 B.C. ]

Agriculture was introduced along the fjords of southern Norway about year 2,500 B.C. At the same time a new mode for burying was introduced in southern Scandinavia and southern Finland. Unburned corpses in sleeping position, always followed by the battle-axe, and without stones or similar signs on the ground above. The battle-axe culture followed rivers and lakes, where before the Ertebølle and the Pit-pottery people had dwelled.

We do not take a position in the dispute whether a change of pottery type or burying technique indicate a migration of people or only of ideas.

The battle-axes of stone were initially made after the model of bronze axes, very true imitation indeed including the seam of the mould in which the bronze axe was cast. The agricultural districts preserved their megalithe culture for some time, and then it seems as the cultures merged. It is believed that this change in the archaeological findings more likely represents a true immigration of people instead of a diffusion of ideas and beliefs. If so, it also seems plausible that horses and the wheel were introduced by these battle-axe people.

Around year 2,000 B.C. trade increased. Copper and bronze items followed dead chieftains into their graves. With increasing trade it didn't last long until bronze (the alloy of copper and tin) was produced in Denmark and on the Scandinavian peninsula. The metals themselves must however be imported. In exchange for the imported copper and tin export of amber and furs and maybe slaves must be assumed.

The Bronze age is dated to the years 1,800-500 B.C. in Denmark, and 1,500-500 B.C. in Sweden and Finland. Bronze age did barely reach Norway or the central parts of Scandinavia and Finland, where the life seems to have continued as before.

 

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2.5.2 Iron Age

Around year 100 B.C. Lombards are believed to have migrated from Scania to Jutland and then further to the area of lower River Elbe, from where they attacked Roman Provinces for the following hundreds of years, ...until it was time for the great re-settlement of the Migration Period. The Lombards finally came to find a warmer sun in Lombardy in Italy.

Western Scandinavia 3rd to 5th century

Around the turn of millennium, good iron was produced at the Oslo-fjord in southern Norway. During the 3rd century A.D. the Iron Age Culture begins to spread from the Oslo fjord region, expanding along the water routes between Norway and Jutland. (Some scholars propose that a tribe with good knowledge of Iron-making thus gained military advantages and expanded to the south from the Oslo-fjord area. Basing their theories on place names, some even propose that these were the Danes, and that the Danes finally reached to present-day Svealand in their expansion along the Baltic Sea. In late 5th century the Lake Mälaren region was reported to be subordinate to Danish kings.)

In any case: at the 5th century it seems as the area from Southern Norway to Jutland is dominated by related tribes, the "Danes" - the flatlanders.

Eastern Scandinavia 5th to 8th century

In late 5th century the Lake Mälaren region was reported to be subordinate to Danish kings, but then Svenonians (Svear) emerge as dominating tribe north of Lake Mälaren. Guths (Gutar on Gotland), Goths (Götar west and south of Lake Mälaren), Finns (in the East) and Sámis (in the North) constitute contemporary cultures. The people on Gotland, the Guthes (Gutar), dominated the Baltic sea and its trade.

The agriculture was improved, and the size of farms became more diverse. On Gotland the arable fields were enclosed by stone walls, and almost all the common lands were split too.

Western Scandinavia 6th to 11th century

Danes inhabit western & southern Scandinavia including Jutland. They trade with West-Rome and Germans via the Rhine estuary. Jutland was the richest territory as that was the key position from where all Scandinavian and Baltic trade to and from Rome and the Rhine valley could be controlled. Danes (including people from present-day Norway and Scania) have a stronghold in England and Ireland which is lost to the romanized Normands in 1066.

Eastern Scandinavia 8th to 11th century

Svear and Gutar dominate trade with East-Rome and the islamic Persia along water-ways in Russia. The castles along the trade routes evolve to separate kingdoms and get Christianized.



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© Copyright 1994-2001 by Antti Lahelma and Johan Olofsson.
You are free to quote this page as long as you mention the URL.
The line of flags is modified after a picture at det Åländska skoldatanätet.
This page was last updated June the 27th in the year of 1998.

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