January 19, 2006

Mesolithic of Baltic Sea basin

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (Article in Press)

Mobility, contact, and exchange in the Baltic Sea basin 6000–2000 BC

Marek Zvelebil

My intention in this paper is to outline the main features and principal aspects of contact and exchange among the later prehistoric hunter–gatherers (late Mesolithic and post-Mesolithic) in the Baltic Sea basin, which covers the southern and eastern reaches of Northern Europe, and to summarise the main advances in current research. The area broadly covered includes the Baltic Sea basin that has provided effective routes for communication between the coastal regions surrounding the Baltic Sea, central Baltic islands, and regions further away in the north European Plain, inland regions of Fennoscandia and Russia that could be reached by an extensive network of major rivers and lakes. Effective transport for negotiating these routes both in the summer and winter existed already from the early Mesolithic. Goods moved along these routes included a wide range of artefacts discussed in the paper. Geographically, exchange was organised at three levels: regionally, inter-regionally, and over long distances. Each mode of exchange was probably organised along different lines socially, and each served to implement wide-ranging social strategies for the general purposes of social reproduction, mate exchange and biological reproduction, as well as the spread of innovations. In the concluding section, I discuss the nature of contacts and consequences of exchanges between the early farming communities and the hunter–gathering groups within the framework of the core-periphery relations.


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