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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Stone Age Demographics: multi-scale exploration of population variations and dynamics

Alternative title: Steinalderens demografi: fler-skala analyse av demografisk variasjon og dynamikk.

Awarded: NOK 9.6 mill.

"Stone Age Demographics" studies change and variation in early northern hunter-gatherer population size, distribution, organization and mobility at several temporal and spatial scales. The core data is the archaeological material from Western Finnmark, Norway, in the period 9500-0 BC, although with an emphasis on the period 5000-0 BC. The project explores these issues at several different scales. At the macrolevel, covering Troms and Finnmark, statistical analyses of raciocarbon dates indicate e a steady population growth from 6000 BC with peaks in the relative population size around 4000 and 2000 BC and a decline at 1500 BC. These correspond to fluctuations in the number of sites and dwellings and with the variations in the amount of rock art. While they are not completely synchronized with climatic markers, it is suggested that climate changes had significant impact on both positive and negative population developments. The growth from 6000 BC is related to a more stable climate with predictability in resources, while the demographic decline kicked in when the environmental changes reached a threshold for maintaining existing settlement patterns. At a medium level the results from the fieldwork clearly demonstrate that habitation in the Stone Age was not evenly distributed across the landscape, but clustered in seascapes. The clusters were partly determined by favourable topographical features, such as sheltered harbours, and good habitation surfaces. But they also map onto important local resources, in particular fishing grounds and seal colonies, and had excellent monitoring points. While highly local resources were of major importance certain critical resources such as hides, bone and antler of reindeer and elk, as well as large trees, in some cases had to be obtained from further afield. Studies of lithic raw indicate that resource exploitation in the main took place within regional areas such as western or eastern Finnmark, but also mobility between regions is documented. The archaeological material suggests that while predominantly sticking to a known region, a residential unit or individuals occasionally relocated over longer distances along the coast or across land to the Bothnian Bay. At the microlevel statistical analyses of radiocarbon dates from excavated dwellings and their spatial organization demonstrate that many were re-used repeatedly and some times with intervals of hundreds or a thousand years, but also that apparently only a few dwellings at each site were in use at the same time. Remains of blod and hairs from slate knives, ubiquitous at settlements between 5000-1000 BC document which species they were used on and will provide information on local activities. Overall an image of a relatively small population, where the residential units, probably small family units, regularly relocated between favourable sites and local seasonal resources is emerging. In some periods (e.g. around 2000 BC) the residential units possibly remained longer at selected sites, either through several seasons or by returning to the same sites for many years in a row. There is some regional variation suggesting lager population density for example at Sørøysund and Varangerfjord compared to Porsanger and Kvænangen, and around 2000 BC eastern Finnmark had a larger number of large contemporary dwellings at many sites, while the pattern of fewer contemporary dwellings continue in western Finnmark.

The project was the first to introduce statistical analyses of radiocarbon dates through temporal frequency distributions (SPD) and Bayesian chronologies in Norwegian archaeology. The PhD-scholars in the project are now fully competent in these methodologies, and the emerging results have increased the general knowledge of their potential in the research group and beyond. Consequently, best practices in sampling and dating radiocarbon will be revised, not only in archaeological research, but also in cultural heritage management projects. We have attempted to disseminate the importance of best practices and uniformity during surveys and documentation to colleagues in adjacent regions (such as northwestern Russia) where the archaeological data are very similar. Studies of use-wear and residues on stone tools have revealed an unsuspected potential for identifying how they were used and on what kind of material. Again, this is important knowledge for cultural heritage management, as it impacts on how tools should be handled after excavation. Through the dissemination of procedures and results project participants have increased their visibility and standing internationally. Our international networks and collaboration have increased as evidenced in co-authored publication, invitations to participate in international workshops and interest from scholars abroad for research stays at our institutions.

This project is an original archaeological analysis of the interrelations between demographic variations, environment and socio-cultural developments in a long-term hunter-gatherer setting. The project is based on a multi-scale approach with interdisciplinary components and will deliver new comprehensive models of the paleodemography of Stone Age Fennoscandia. These models focus on 1) the reconstruction of supra-regional long-term population fluctuations, 2) spatio-temporal variability in regional demography, settlement organization and the wider subsistence landscape, and 3) local intra-and inter-site demographic and social patterns. The variations in the demographic models are correlated with climatic and environmental changes as well as with cultural transformations and events. The dynamic relationship between demography, resource exploitation and socio-cultural interaction will be explored, with particular considerations of possible migrations, the socio-cultural context of rock art and the extent of cultural transmission.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam