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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Scandinavia

The pre-history of Europe is a long and largely uncertain period in which small windows of opportunity to view events can be gained through archaeology. Masses of material are found each year by archaeologists, and a system was long ago needed to help organise all these findings.

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right). Archaeological cultures remain the framework for global prehistory.

Europe's earliest cultures which came out of Africa via the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue. These early cultures include transitional ones such as the Bohunician, which covers part of the earliest occupation of modern humans in Europe.

Once the ice had retreated and Europe had become a much more hospitable place, human cultures became increasingly regionalised, or at least confined to areas less expansive than the entirety of Europe. The Magdalenian culture of circa 17,000 to 12,000 BC includes the well-known cave art of Lescaux (in France) and Altamira (in Spain), with the earliest dated sites being in France.

Subsequently, cultural complexity appears and increases as human populations increased. What had been a single human culture across Europe eventually divided in two which - at least at first - can be equated to Northern Europe and Southern Europe. As the ice retreated northwards human hunter-gatherers followed their prey herds, exploring new lands which were exploding with life after thousands of years under the ice.

The Kunda culture (or Kunden) was Northern Europe's first regionally-dominant modern human culture in the Baltics, emerging during the final centuries of the Swiderian culture. Around 8300 BC the Fosna-Hensbacka culture emerged across western and central Scandinavia, principally along the coasts of Norway and Sweden. This was almost the region's earliest native culture, beaten only by the related Komsa to the north prior to the emergence of a semi-historical Fenno-Scandinavia.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), from The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe, Quaternary International Volumes 272-273 (2012), from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), and from External Links: The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and Maps of Neolithic & Bronze Age migrations around Europe (Eupedia), and Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and North-Eastern Technocomplex (Indo-Europeans and Uralic peoples), and Norway (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Alta Museum.)


King list Komsa Culture
(c.10,000 - 8000 BC)

Known in Norway as the the Komsakulturen, it gained its name from Mount Komsa in Finnmark's Alta region, close to which the culture's remnants were found.

King list Fosna-Hensbacka Culture
(c.8300 - 7300 BC)

Some early Fosna finds have been uncovered in very late Swiderian sites strongly suggesting that the former developed out of elements of the latter.

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