Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Shore Displacement Chronology of the Estonian Stone Age/Eesti Kiviaja Rannasiirdekronoloogia

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Shore Displacement Chronology of the Estonian Stone Age/Eesti Kiviaja Rannasiirdekronoloogia

Article excerpt


The research of Estonian coastal areas and islands that gained momentum in the mid-1990s has provided manifold results from generalizing treatments on settlement and economic history (Kriiska 2000a; 2001; 2002a; 2003) to specifications of absolute chronology and periodization of the Stone Age (Kriiska 2001; Lang & Kriiska 2001). Data gathered during survey trips and excavations created the need, on the one hand, and a possibility, on the other, for an alternative chronology with regard to shore displacement.

The need arises predominantly from the fact that no archaeological excavations have taken place so far in most of the discovered sites, wherefore dates obtained by the radiocarbon method are missing. Although most of the settlement sites are datable by finds, many places have been come upon which have not offered clear indicator finds even to enable ascertainment of the archaeological culture.

The question was raised especially harshly with regard to the settlement site of Kopu X (Hiiumaa Island) that according to the altitude should have been younger than the Early Neolithic settlement site of Kopu I, but the find material gathered during the excavation lacked pottery entirely. Such places that have been inhabited by people who have known the art of making pottery but who have not left it behind (for example in short-time campsites) or have not taken their vessels along to those places at all, are on the background of other coastal Estonian material (predominantly consisting of quartz only) difficult, practically even impossible to date and connect to archaeological cultures that are mostly based on pottery. Nevertheless the determining and comparing of the altitude relations of sites could at this point present important information and specifications of dating.

The pioneer role in employing and improving shore displacement chronology belongs to Finnish archaeologists. They have demonstrated that by combining data obtained from the shore-related dwelling sites that have followed the changes in water level caused by land upheaval and development of water-bodies, it is possible to gain an independent dating method. The shore-displacement chronologies created in this way have found productive exploitation in attempts to discover new sites (e.g. Saukonen 2000; Jussila 2000, 25) as well as to interpret the existing ones (e.g. Siiriainen 1982; Schulz 1996; Jussila 1999).

As in the case of Estonia we are also dealing with an area of compensational land upheaval, although it is less extensive than in Fennoscandia, then in principle the method can be employed here as well. Another important requirement is also satisfied, namely, most of the Stone Age hunter-fisher-gatherers dwelling sites were situated directly on the banks of water-bodies, and starting from the Late Mesolithic also on the seashore. The fact that people have indeed lived right on the shore is indicated by both the altitude relations of the cultural layer and its location on landscape that follows the ancient shore line. The settlement traces of foraging Stone Age can often be found on coastal fossilized beach formations and terraces. On seashore the banks of small bays, often capes extending into coves have been inhabited, while in default of more favourable conditions the living places could have been founded also directly on open beach (Figs. 1, 2).

In Estonia sufficient data for creating a shore displacement chronology exists only for the Baltic Sea, but in principle the method should be employable also in the case of lakes, especially Lakes Vortsjarv and Peipsi. The data necessary for generating such a chronology has been collected systematically during fieldwork in coastal Estonia. In addition to a detailed analysis of the finds, the locations of the settlement sites have been thoroughly observed; while many of those have been mapped more exactly and in several cases also paleogeographic reconstructions have been composed. …

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