Mesolithic Dwelling Places in South Scandinavia: Their Definition and Social Interpretation

By Gron, Ole | Antiquity, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Mesolithic Dwelling Places in South Scandinavia: Their Definition and Social Interpretation


Gron, Ole, Antiquity


Introduction

There has long been controversy in Danish research over the recognition of Mesolithic dwellings. Some researchers state that there are no convincing dwellings known from the Danish Mesolithic, while others will accept a series of features as characteristic of dwelling-remains. A central point of disagreement has been whether the large concentrations of worked flints that are in most cases found to coincide with the presumed dwelling-floors can actually have been deposited inside dwellings (Bokelmann 1989; Gron 1995; Stapert 1994; Sorensen 1996). The present paper argues that they were, but accepts that the inhabitants did not walk around on, sit on or sleep on heaps of razor-blade sharp pieces of flint. One must take the complex and socially regulated depositional processes of material inside the dwellings into account to reach a more nuanced and credible picture of what happened. As such problems are widespread in early prehistory, this discussion should be of general interest.

Spatial behaviour within the dwelling-spaces of hunter-gatherers should generally be organised in accordance with sets of culture-specific rules reflecting the social 'positions' of the individuals as well as the cosmic aspects of the dwelling-space. It is strange that such a general cultural/ behavioural trait--with a few exceptions--has been given so little attention in archaeology, in spite of the massive documentation that has existed for a considerable time (e.g. Leem 1767; Rank 1951). In cases where such spatial patterns can be reconstructed on the basis of archaeological finds, they afford direct insight into the social organisation of the groups that inhabited the dwellings (Gron 1995; Gron & Kuznetsov--in print). Spatial organisation within a dwelling reports a different aspect of life to specialised ritual contexts such as burials bur may be equally ritualised. The type of behavioural rules we discuss here regulate not only the placing of the individuals in the dwelling-space, but also how they deal with artefacts and waste.

An analytic focus on the spatial and temporal aspects of the depositional processes in the supposed dwelling-pits, in combination with the development of excavation and recording methods suited for this type of approach, have been successfully applied to the south Scandinavian Mesolithic material in recent years (Gron 1995). By demonstrating repeated patterning in the spatial organisation of the material in the suggested dwelling-pits, we have been able to identify single- or multi-family dwellings, as well as lighter summer dwellings or large winter houses with central posts (Gron 1990, 1995). The changes of the dwelling-types through time have in combination with indications of the general settlement layout (e.g. number of dwellings on the settlements, distance between them), facilitated the distinction of what seems to be long-term changes in the social organisation of south Scandinavian Mesolithic society, some appearing to anticipate Neolithic practice (Gron 1998 a).

This case study leads on to a more general discussion on dwelling-organisation as a means of elucidating cultural and social developments in hunter-gatherer societies.

Evidence for dwelling-places

Isolated floors

A number of Mesolithic 'bark floors' (which often include twigs and branches) have been found in the peat-bogs during the last 100 years. At Ulkestrup I, Zealand, Denmark, belonging to the Maglemose Culture, the best-preserved part of the floor consisted of bundles of branches 25 cm long and 5-6 cm thick. Between these were found smaller branches, twigs, remains of leaves, and leaves of Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris) (Andersen et al. 1982:12) (Figures 1, 2). At Duvensee, northern Germany, five Maglemosian bark floors were found, one on top of the other, the lowest one resting on a kind of platform made up of twigs and thick, straight branches, probably a kind of foundation in the damp peat area (Schwantes 1925:174-175). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mesolithic Dwelling Places in South Scandinavia: Their Definition and Social Interpretation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.