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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Fosna-Hensbacka Culture (Epi-Palaeolithic / Mesolithic) (Scandinavia)
c.8300 - 7300 BC

The Epi-Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic Komsa culture emerged in Northern Europe as part of a prelude to the more widespread Fosna-Hensbacka culture. Prior to the latter's emergence in Scandinavia, the neighbouring Kunda culture became the first regionally-dominant modern human culture in the Baltics.

This emerged during the final centuries of the widespread Swiderian culture as hunter-gatherers pushed northwards from Early Poland. They were following both the retreating ice and the migrating animals they hunted. As the Swiderian faded out and other cultures replaced it to the south and west, the Kunda became dominant in the Baltic states and farther north-westwards.

Given finds which show the northwards movement of Swiderian groups to almost fully evacuate the Polish plain, the Kunda and other post-Swiderian groups such as the Butovo have been described by some as being a direct continuation of the Swiderian. Equally, others reject this idea.

Fosna and Hensbacka form two regional centres for the Fosna-Hensbacka. Fosna (or Lille-Fosen) is the former name for today's Kristiansund. Both locations are very similar in terms of archaeology, which is why they are grouped together. The Komsa culture is included as a further regional form of this complex, notwithstanding its different types of tools, because it appears to have been fed from proto-Fosna groups to the south.

The main difference, in fact, is only that Fosna and Komsa finds are distributed along the western and south-western Norwegian coast, while Hensbacka finds are distributed largely along the coast of western Sweden, and especially in central Bohuslšn to the north of Gothenburg (which may be the largest seasonal settlement area in the entirety of early Mesolithic Scandinavia).

Some early Fosna finds have been uncovered in very late Swiderian sites - specifically the Varanger peninsula in northern Norway - strongly suggesting that the former developed out of elements of the latter. Hensbacka sites reveal a tool-making lineage which leads directly back to the Ahrensburg culture. Both sides of the culture concentrated primarily on fishing and seal hunting, generally using hide-covered wooden-framed boats to catch prey.

Mesolithic stone tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), and from External Links: 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.)

c.8300 BC

The Fosna-Hensbacka culture emerges across western and central Scandinavia, principally along Norway's western and south-western coast and Sweden's western coast. This double-pronged culture is made up of a pure hunter-gatherer society which fishes and hunts seals.

At the same time, the earliest post-glacial inhabitants of the Finland region are probably seasonal hunter-gatherers for the most part. Artefacts which belong to them and which have been discovered by archaeologists are known to represent the Suomusjärvi and Kunda cultures. Amongst finds is the Antrea net, the oldest fishing net ever known to have been excavated.

Fosna-Hensbacka tools
Fosna-Hensbacka stone tools have been found in Doggerland (now under the North Sea) and Britain, leading to sone experts suggesting a wider cultural area for this culture than is usually proposed

c.8200 BC

A little over three hundred years after the emergence of the Kunda culture and during the fading of the preceding Swiderian, the waters of the ice-damned Baltic Ice Lake penetrate the region of the Billingen Mountains to form a link with the Atlantic Ocean.

As a result of this sudden levelling of local water levels the Yoldia Sea drops rapidly, by about thirty metres. This retreat is so sudden that it is known as the Billingen Catastrophe. It probably also has a profound effect on the early inhabitants of the Baltic area.

The Komsa culture is located far to the north even of this northern event, and is unlikely to be at all touched by it, although Fosna-Hensbacka coasts may indeed be affected. Coastal areas of the neighbouring Kunda probably recover relatively quickly.

Map of Scandinavia 9000 BC
This map shows the approximate location of the ice sheet at about 9000 BC, and approximate routes of migration for the first human populations to live here (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.8000 BC

The Komsa culture has served as an early expression along the coast of northern Norway for the Fosna-Hensbacka culture. That has been flourishing for the past three centuries, and the Komsa now gives way to it.

c.7300 BC

Northern Europe's Fosna-Hensbacka culture fades out as it is succeeded in Scandinavia by the Sandarna culture which thrives along the coast of western Sweden.

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