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Plant subsistence and environment at the Mesolithic site Tågerup, southern Sweden: new insights on the “Nut Age”

Abstract

Pollen was analysed from a sediment sequence collected in the close vicinity of the Mesolithic settlement Tågerup, southern Sweden. Macroremains were also retrieved from numerous samples taken at the site of the archaeological excavations of Kongemose and Ertebølle settlement phases, 6700–6000 b.c. and 5500–4900 b.c. respectively. Plants and other organic remains were well preserved in the refuse layers from the settlements embedded in the gyttja. The pollen record includes no clear indications of human impact on the vegetation during the Mesolithic. The occurrence of charcoal particles and pollen of grass and herbs associated with nutrient-rich soils are contemporaneous with the Kongemose settlement. The Ertebølle settlement phase, although characterised by considerable dwelling activities less than a hundred metres from the pollen sampling site, is scarcely seen in the pollen data. Numerous finds of crushed dogwood stones from the Kongemose phase, often partly carbonised, suggest that these stones were used for the extraction of oil. Other plants found in the Kongemose refuse layers that may have been used are apples, cherries, raspberries, acorns and rowan-berries. Based on the abundance of hazelnut shells found at the studied site and in other studies of Mesolithic sites in southern Scandinavia it is proposed that these remains may testify to an important food supply rather than just use as a supplement to animal protein. It is also hypothesised that a regional decrease in hazel populations and thus hazelnut availability at the end of the Mesolithic may have motivated the adoption of Neolithic subsistence.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Leif Björkman and Joachim Regnéll who performed the pollen analysis and made an initial description of the pollen diagram, to Sven Karlsson who assisted with the diagram construction, to Ingrid Bergenstråhle who provided remarks on archaeological aspects and to Małgorzata Latałowa, Jan Risberg, Marie-José Gaillard and two anonymous reviewers who made valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Communicated by M. Latałowa.

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Regnell, M. Plant subsistence and environment at the Mesolithic site Tågerup, southern Sweden: new insights on the “Nut Age”. Veget Hist Archaeobot 21, 1–16 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-011-0299-x

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Keywords

  • Plant macroremains
  • Pollen
  • Mesolithic
  • Environmental history
  • Plant subsistence
  • Hazelnuts