Tracking the Footprints of the People without History - Insect Assemblages and Environmental Change in Northern Scandinavia 

Monday, 15 December 2014
Eva Panagiotakopulu, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9, United Kingdom
Using palaeocology and in particular palaeoentomology to understand climate, environmental change and impacts by indigenous groups in the North Atlantic Arctic fringe provides the opportunity to obtain refined details about both the rates of impact and the timing of the change from hunting and gathering to farming. In northern Norway and Sweden the Sami coastal fisher-hunters and inland reindeer herders shared the landscape with incoming agriculturalists and were often assimilated or marginalised. While inside their settled areas there is a palaeoentomological record for the Sami and often information about resource use and seasonality is evident from the fossil insect record, their footprint on the wider landscape tends to be slight and difficult to discern. The diverse and often intermittent nature of Sami activities, which may range from reindeer herding, fishing and even some agricultural activities, makes the task of firmly identifying impacts and differentiating these from climate change a complex task. On the other hand, the transition from a diverse subsistence to intensified pastoralism leaves a clear record in the fossil insect assemblages, both from midden deposits and natural profiles. To add to the complexities of the interpretation, farmers in northern Norway for example, were actively involved in fishing and the fur trade, and introduced grain faunas found in the farm mounds attest to the returns on this, but there is no way to be certain whether the occupiers of the farms were Sami or Norse, or a mixture of both. For a group where both archaeological and historical evidence is sparse, the insect record may unfold the poorly known ecological impact of the Sami.