Book: Early Economy and Settlement in Northern Europe
Chapter: The Early Mesolithic of Western Norway
Due to isostatic uplift during early Post Glacial times, coastal areas of Norway have numerous sites from the Early Mesolithic (EM) i.e., 10,000-8900 BP (9500-8000 cal. BC). The rocky and weather-beaten west coast seems to be in a unique position regarding the quantity of remains dating back to this period. Few other areas in the world can demonstrate a similar degree of variation and complexity in the archaeological record when it comes to early Post Glacial Stone Age settlement sites. There is also a long research tradition addressing the Preboreal period in this part of Norway. This overview attempts to provide insight into a 1000 to 1200-year long pioneer period characterised by dynamic environmental changes. Regarding culture historical issues, the main objective is to offer an outline of some of the characteristics of western Norway; not to provide a complete description. The goal is rather to outline an overview of the EM sites which are found here rather than to address migration hypotheses or to present in depth analyses of material culture. Following this, several case studies will be presented with the intent of revealing both similarities and differences between the sites. Finally, issues regarding dating and source assessment will be addressed, an interpretation of the settlement pattern will be put forward, and recent literature on the field, including some of the author’s own investigations along the coast of western Norway, will be presented. The areas defined as western Norway (Norwegian Vestlandet) are the three counties Hordaland, Sogn and Fjordane and Møre and Romsdal. Unless otherwise specified, all radiocarbon dates referred to are presented in uncalibrated age (BP) and calibrated age (BC). Oxcal version 3.1 combined with Cologne Radiocarbon Calibration and Paleoclimate Research Package “Cal Pal” has been used to calibrate older 14C results from uncal BP to cal. BC.