Fisheries Ecology and Aquaculture

Cross-disciplinary research: biological evidence reinforces archaeological conclusions

When sites of ancient human occupation are discovered, researchers want to know who has been there, why they were there and what they were doing, and when they were there. Three researchers from the Department of Biology (BIO) collaborated with researchers from Bergen Museum to learn more about two Mesolithic sites.

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The Mesolithic or “middle stone age” period began after the last Ice Age, around 10 000 years ago. Human inhabitants of northern Europe during this time were hunters-gatherers that were beginning to use more sophisticated tools such as bows, canoes and small stone tools called microliths, which were probably used as barbs on spears.

Where did they settle? for how long? how often did they move? Researchers analyse the layers of debris in historical sites to answer these questions. One of the vertebrate remains that are found are otoliths (ear stones) from fish.

Fish continuously deposit material on their otoliths during the course of their lifetime and the layer pattern or rings can be analysed like tree trunk rings to learn information about climate conditions during this time period. Researchers at BIO and their colleagues at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research at UiB have well-established expertise analysing the climate history contained in the chemical record of otolith rings.

When otoliths from two Mesolithic archeological sites at Skoklefald in southeastern Norway and Skipshelleren in southwestern Norway were analysed, the results showed that the sites were occupied seasonally when the local waters were the coldest, or late winter and early spring.