Outer Archipelago Fishing as a Resource in the Societies of the Late Iron Age and Middle ages/Kalastamine Valissaarestikus Kui Hilisrauaaja Ja Keskaja Uhiskondade Elatusallikas

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This article is a short presentation of the results from an on-going research for the project "Premodern Coastal Environments" at the University College Sodertorns Hogskola in Sweden. The project places natural processes against changes in society in an attempt to understand the interplay between man and environment (Lilja 2006, 7). This can be studied in shorter and longer perspectives. In shorter perspective Sven Lilja has, among others, for the project localized local climate crises on the coast of Sodermanland utilizing initially "one-tenth lists" or "tithe lists" from around the year 1600 (Lilja 2006, 95 ff.). The longer perspective can be described by slow changes in the local society. Tradition was strong and did not mostly break off, even when radical changes were introduced (Granlund 1958, 111; Lofgren 1973, 30 ff.).

This article is an example of that. My starting point is the abundant fishing camps in the outer archipelago. Here one finds the remains of huts, jetties and places where the fishermen dried their nets. The aim is to put the outer archipelago fishing area in its social context over time, from when the fishing camps were used for the first time in the Viking Age or just before, until the late Middle Ages, when the earliest known written Swedish sources concerning the outer archipelago fishing appear. The overall question is: who was the fisherman and why did he fish?

To answer the questions I have in a previous article, related to the project, made an overview of the settlement development in the investigation area--east Sodermanland--from the late Iron Age to the sixteenth century by analyzing the spatial spread of ancient monuments, mostly graves of the late Iron Age, place names, charters from the Middle Ages and fiscal sources from the 16th century (Norman 2006) (Fig. 1). The overview resulted in a number of issues concerning the settlement development and use of natural resources in the area. The issues are presented in two hypothetical models. In my opinion the models are general and applicable to most areas with similar geographic, economic and social conditions. According to the first model, there are three different geographic zones for the settlement development:

1. In the Viking Age the permanent settlements were concentrated on the fertile areas of the mainland and the big islands in the inner archipelago.

2. The less fertile islands beyond the mainland were used as grazing land during the summer. This part of the archipelago was colonised by peasants from the centuries after 1000 AD.

3. The outer archipelago has never been inhabited. Throughout history the outermost archipelago has been used for seasonal fishing and hunting.


According to the second model, the people who used the natural resources were hypothetically of different kind and belonged to different spheres of society:

1. A local sphere, consisting of peasants living in the archipelago, and using the archipelago for farming, grazing and fishing.

2. A regional and urban sphere, consisting of a) the authorities (the nobles, the Crown and the church) who taxed the farmers and b) peasants and burghers from outside the archipelago who were fishing in the outer archipelago during the fishing season.

3. An interregional sphere consisting of the shipping that crossed the archipelago, having neither embarkation nor destination there.

In a second article I reported the results from the archaeological researches of the last decade, made by the University College Sodertorns Hogskola in the outer archipelago of Sodermanland, under the lead of project member Johan Ronnby (Norman 2008). These researches dealt mostly with the fishing camps.

A third article, written in cooperation with project member Bengt Windelhed, dealt with the development of an agrarian settlement in the inner part of the archipelago (Norman & Windelhed 2008). …


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