Biweekly Colloquium: "Economical changes in prehistoric Denmark: Insights from radiocarbon dating"

Nov 06, 2023 from 04:15 PM to 05:45 PM

Olshausenstraße 40, R. 13

Bente Philippsen - NTNU University Museum Trondheim

"Economical changes in prehistoric Denmark: Insights from radiocarbon dating"

"Periods of change in history and prehistory can give fascinating insights into the lives of people in the past, as they show how individuals and societies react to changes in their natural and cultural environment. For understanding change in prehistory, precise chronologies are necessary: the rate of change can only be determined if the duration of certain developments is known; to understand how and how fast innovations spread across regions, absolute dates from all sites are necessary; to link cultural with environmental developments, all must be put on the same timeline.

I will present three different case studies, where radiocarbon dates contributed to show how economical change was inspired by contact networks. The study regions are all in Denmark, but can only be understood in their wider European context.

The first study region, the southern coast of Lolland, has been the bridgehead towards continental Europe since the Stone Age. Here, we find a complex economy at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, where very early domesticates, including milk, were incorporated into a hunter-gather-fisher economy, which persisted and developed throughout the Neolithic. Due to the lack of stratigraphical order in the depositional environment, only radiocarbon dates can show which resources were used during which periods.

The second case study is the Pitted Ware Culture in Denmark. This culture had a mixed economy, which partly returned to hunting, fishing and sealing long after the introduction of agriculture in that area. Radiocarbon dates do not only result in site chronologies within the study area, but can also link the development in Denmark to the wider context of the Pitted Ware Culture's origin and spread in Scandinavia.

The third case study helps to date finds from Ribe and thus disentangle trade and contact networks before and during the beginning of the Viking Age. There is evidence of long-distance maritime trade with Northern and Western Europe already before the introduction of Middle Eastern finds. The maritime expansions connected to the beginning of the Viking Age were thus inspired by bulk transports of goods such as pottery, whetstones and reindeer antler. Long-distance trade networks were present before Islamic silver fueled a further expansion and intensification of these networks."

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