Hunter-Gatherer Responses to the 8.2 Ka Cold Event in the Fennoscandian Arctic

Monday, 15 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Mikael A. Manninen, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Because of a marked influence of warm Atlantic water to primary productivity in the Barents Sea, the marine ecosystem in northernmost Fennoscandia is sensitive to disturbances in the North Atlantic oceanographic system. The 8.2 ka climate event, according to current knowledge, was triggered by a disturbance in the North Atlantic Thermohaline circulation. This suggests concurrent and strong climatic and marine cooling in the area covering the northernmost parts of Finland, Norway, and Sweden during the climate event. In this area ecosystem response to the 8.2 ka event can therefore be expected to have been prominent, which in turn should be reflected in the contemporary human socio-economic systems.

A study that employs lithic technological, statistical, and spatial analyses of Late Mesolithic (ca. 8450–6850 cal BP) lithic technology and settlement configuration in the area indicates that lithic technology and settlement patterns were reorganised following the climatic and marine cooling. The studied groups changed their lithic technology as a result of developments that led to increased use of terrestrial resources and an accompanying long-distance coast/inland residential mobility pattern. Besides lithic technological changes and long-distance mobility on land, decreased marine productivity probably also explains the disappearance of semi-subterranean houses from the coast at ca. 8200 cal BP, while their reappearance after ca. 7500 cal BP can be linked to a increased influx of warm salty water into the Barents Sea.

The results suggest that in the past a long period of decreased influx of Atlantic water into the Barents Sea has had disastrous consequences for the marine ecosystem. At present the Barents Sea fisheries have notable economic importance and produce, for example, over 90% of the Norwegian Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) catch.