Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58


Jari Okkonen, The Baltic as a sphere of interaction during the Stone Age.

Following the traditional chronological schema, the final stage of the Stone Age and the first phases of the Bronze Age (ca 1800 1000 BC) form a time of clear changes in the prehistory of the north. This is particularly evident in archaeological material discovered in the coastal area of northern Finland. The settlement pattern in these coastal regions seems to have undergone radical changes at the end of the Stone Age, but the Bronze Age was notably different from the Neolithic. The large dwelling sites with numerous pit-house remains disappeared and the sites came to consist of the remains of just a few pit-houses typically only one. The dwelling sites characteristic of the Bronze Age are broad plains with no visible remains on the surface. They are few in number and are usually situated in strategic positions at river estuaries. The most distinctive and abundant Bronze Age remains in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Bothnia are cooking pits, in addition to which there are also small shore-bound dwelling plains with limited finds. Perhaps the most interesting phenomenon in the northern Bronze Age material is the presence of hoards and stray finds of foreign origin.

How can we interpret these obvious changes in material culture? The hypothesis is put forward here that this development is related to the long-term trend towards cultural and social polarization which emerged at the end of the Stone Age in the Baltic Sea region. From then onwards the interaction between the southern farming communities and the northern huntergatherer societies was transformed into a pattern which can be explained in terms of a centreperiphery model, whereas before that, during the middle Neolithic (e.g. 4000 - 2000 BC), interaction between societies may have followed the peer-polity model. These changes in the Baltic sphere of interaction led to social and cultural polarization, resulting in an intensification of both hunting in the northern areas and farming in the southern areas.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58