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-HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

SCANDINAVIA-

Alta Man

          Once the glaciers receded following the last Ice Age, new land appeared, and new coastline. Game animals on land — moose, elk, reindeer, musk ox, mammoth, deer, wild boar — and sea — fish, seals, whales, otters, shellfish — attracted Stone Age man into new regions of land across northern Europe and into Scandinavia.
          The earliest hunters and gatherers entered the region more than 10,000 years ago but left scant evidence of their presence. The weather continued to warm, and the ice and snow continued to recede. Stone Age man found plentiful food and was drawn further north along the coasts and into the Scandinavian interior. Life for these people on the edge of the survivable world was brutish and short, and fraught with mystery and danger.

 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN 2000.                         ITS MOST RECENT REVISION: 2014.

 

 

North and South:
        Fire, boats and stone tools enabled these daring peoples to survive the great test of the north. The northern hunter/gatherers followed the herds and the salmon runs, moving south during the winters, moving north again during the summers. They followed cultural traditions practiced throughout the far north — Finland, Russia, and across the Bering Straits into Alaska and Canada.

 

          In southern Scandinavia conditions grew favorable to

Bronze Age Lur.
 
Bronze Age Lur

encourage and support agriculture. By about 1500 BC in Denmark, southern Sweden, and southern Norway, temperatures warmed to levels similar to today’s Mediterranean climate. Farming guaranteed an annual food supply without migration and created a social stability that enabled a complex structured society to emerge. Farming required advanced tools and knowledge, and both came from neighbors further to the south on the European continent. Trade with these older, more advanced, southern European societies brought the lower Scandinavians many innovations, perhaps especially, by 1500 BC, bronze, and 1,000 years later, iron.
        Throughout heavily wooded Scandinavia there was little need to build out of any but organic materials. Little evidence remains of the Scandinavia of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age except tools of stone, bronze, and iron, some jewelry and ornament, stone burial cairns, and, most remarkably, a widespread and rich collection of stone drawings we call "rock carvings".

 

        Today, throughout Scandinavia visitors can explore the early

years of human prehistory in the region thanks to the careful collecting, restoring, maintaining, and re-creating of important sites and finds from the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages.

 

 

PREHISTORIC MILESTONES IN SCANDINAVIA:

 • 9000-8000 BC  Earliest human settlement in Scandinavia
 
• 8000-4000 BC  Old Stone Age: hunters & fishermen, first rock carvings
 
• 4000-1500 BC  New Stone Age: early agriculture, livestock
 
• 1500-500   BC  Bronze Age: agricultural tools, jewelry, glass, weapons
 
• 500 BC-800 AD Iron Age: iron plows and scythes
 
• 800–1050 AD   Viking Age

 

 

 

Denmark:
          In
Denmark, great troves of flint and bronze and iron tools and weapons have been found. The National Museum in Copenhagen displays a superb collection of weapons and implements of flint — arrowheads, axes, swords and much more — crafted and used in the everyday life of the peoples of Stone Age

Denmark from around 10,000 to 1,500 BC.

 

          Bronze came to Denmark around 1,500 BC, imported from southern Europe. The National Museum exhibits a priceless grouping of weapons, ornaments and sacrificial offerings from the Bronze Age. The collection’s masterpiece is the Sun Chariot—made around 1,500 BC—a circular disk partially gilded, representing the life-giving sun, drawn by a bronze horse. Near the Sun Chariot in the National Museum are the lurs, which also date from the Bronze Age and are the world’s oldest musical instruments: gracefully curved bronze horns, six feet long from mouthpiece to funnel. A

Ancient Bronze & Gold Chariot.
The chariot of the sun. 14th century BC.
Trundholm, Denmark. Bronze and gold

© Photo: National Museum, Copenhagen – Kit Weiss

total of 31 lurs have been found. Many are

 

so well preserved that they can still be used to play fanfares on festive occasions.
        The Iron Age arrived in Denmark at about 500 BC. More effective implements to cultivate land were thereby created, and rural settlements came into existence. Iron provided for more and stronger weapons, inspiring the Danes of that time to take up warfare, leading ultimately to the Danish Viking invasions to England and Normandy.

 

 

 

The Far North of Norway:
        Even the very far north of Scandinavia was eventually inhabited by pre-historic man, who left his mark in rock carvings and rock paintings much like early settlers 800 miles to the south. The petroglyphs in the Alta Fjord by the Norwegian Sea not far from
Norway's North Cape (northernmost point on the European continent) are from a settlement that existed during the Stone Age: 4200-500 BC. Since 1985 the Alta Fjord site, with its paintings and thousands of engravings, has been on the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Visitors can visit the site, midway between Tromsø and Hammerfest on route E6.

Alta Moose.

        In the north people existed in small bands that moved

 

around over large territories, not unlike nomadic Inuit peoples today. They lived mainly from hunting and fishing with moose, seal and salmon probably providing their most important food sources. Because of their migratory life-style—moving seasonally from one camp to another—they constructed smaller tents that could easily be transported between their different camping grounds. They left few permanent reminders of their existence: a few stone cairns, stone tools, and rock drawings.

 
 

Southern Sweden:
          Although prehistoric Denmark was probably richer in metals, tools, and the

 

complexities of civilization, no place in Scandinavia has a

Cairn at Rossö, Sweden. Photo © Home At First.
Bronze Age Cairn
near Rossö, Sweden

Photo © Home At First.

greater abundance of prehistoric sites than does the lower third of Sweden. Found along both coasts and deep into its interior, Sweden’s multitude of sites contributes much to our knowledge of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages in Northern Europe.
          Typical finds in southern
Sweden are burial mounds (earthworks) and burial cairns (mounds of stones), and a wealth of sites with rock drawings/carvings. Some of the rock drawings, like those of the far north, seem strictly representative of practical concerns: game animals, fish, weapons, and boats. But such is the number and variety of symbols — both representative and abstract — that many experts believe the markings to be a kind of primitive language with magical or religious importance.
          The most common type of rock carving of the southern Bronze Age tradition is the simple cup-mark figure: a little depression in the rock surface, a few inches wide and less than an inch deep. The second

 

most common picture is of a ship or boat. Experts

debate whether the ship engravings represent real ships, or if they serve to

symbolize a concept like birth, death, or

 

commerce.
          The southern Swedish provinces of
Bohuslän, Scania, Östergötland, and in the Lake Mälaren Basin are the largest concentrations of rock carving sites. Here primitive peoples had settled small villages where they lived primarily by farming and cattle raising. Like Eastern Woodland Indians or British Celts, these early Swedes built big long-houses with timber posts and walls made of wattle and mud, and they kept their fields and pastures around the village.
          From around 1300 BC, the stone-built cairn became the common burial crypt design

Rock Drawing, Sweden. Photo © Home At First.
Bronze Age boat & cup marks,
southern Sweden

Photo © Home At First
 

of the Bronze Age in northern Europe. Cairns

 

were probably built as monuments to honor dead

Bronze Age Cairn. Photo © Home At First.
Bronze Age Cairn Bohuslän, Sweden
Photo © Home At First.

tribal leaders. Cairns are found along both coasts and the interior of southern Sweden. Large burial mounds of turf are common to wealthier regions, while stone cairns are found in poorer regions with less farming potential.
          Two hours drive on the E6 north of Gothenburg along Sweden’s west coast in the province of Bohuslän is the great complex of rock carvings known as Tanum, near Tanumshede village, about 3 miles from the sea. Like Alta in northern Norway, the Tanum site has been named to
UNESCO's World Heritage list. While the site presents nothing unique, it is the quantity and quality of the rock carvings here that give Tanum its importance. Visitors can wander

 

throughout the several acres of protected land seeing

thousands of drawings and carvings on

 

exposed rock faces large and small, in fields and in the forest. A trail even leads to a rock mound burial cairn at the top of the Tanum hill.
          Across the road from the Tanum site is the Vitlycke Museum, completed in 1998. The primary reason for the museum is to try to explain — via multi-media methods — the many different interpretations of Tanum's Bronze Age carving/drawings. Behind the Vitlycke Museum is a reconstructed living Bronze Age Farm, where visitors have an opportunity to enter primitive long-houses, and observe Bronze Age technology and

Tanum Rock Drawings. Photo © Home At First.
World Heritage rock drawings at Tanum, Sweden
Photo © Home At First

agriculture.

 

 

          More sites are being discovered all the

Vitlycke Museum. Photo © Home At First.
Vitlycke Museum Bronze Age Farm, Sweden.
Photo © Home At First

time. An important site in southern Sweden is the Bovigården Bronze Age Center at the Folk  Museum of Boarp, just outside Båstad, north of Malmö at the Swedish provincial border of Skåne and Halland. The focus of the center is a 60’ x 30’ long-house based on Bronze Age house remains found in Halland. Just as in Tanum, the Bovigården Bronze Age Center will be a living museum with hands-on displays, live animals, gardens, technology and agriculture.

 

 

You can visit all kinds of destinations as easy day trips
from Home At First lodgings throughout Scandinavia.
Our exclusive "Activities Guides" have hundreds
of pages of suggestions for things to see and
do when you travel with
Home At First to:
SCANDINAVIA

HOME AT FIRST offers travel to many great destinations in SWEDEN, NORWAY, & DENMARK
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SCANDINAVIA.

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