An underwater Stone Age settlement

Researchers have now mapped a preserved underwater site off the coast of Sweden. They think it was a lagoon where Mesolithic humans lived during parts of the year.

Researchers have uncovered and mapped an exceptionally well-preserved underwater Stone Age site in the Baltic Sea off the coast of southern Sweden. The Lund University scientists believe the location was a lagoon environment where Mesolithic people (culture in northwest Europe from about 10,000 to 5,000 BC) lived during parts of the year.

The site, discovered by divers seven years ago, has the oldest known stationary fish traps in northern Europe. Other spectacular finds include a 9,000 year-old pick axe made out of elk antlers. The discoveries suggest mass fishing, say the researchers, and therefore a semi-permanent settlement.

Changes in sea level have allowed the findings to be preserved deep below the surface of Hanö Bay in the Baltic Sea.

Discoveries indicate mass fishing and therefore a semi-permanent settlement. Image via Arne Sjöström

Discoveries indicate mass fishing and therefore a semi-permanent settlement. Image via Arne Sjöström

The researchers drilled into the seabed and radiocarbon dated the core, and examined pollen and diatoms. They have also produced a seafloor map of the site that reveals depth variations.

Team member Anton Hansson is a PhD student in Quaternary geology at Lund University. Hansson said in a statement:

If you want to fully understand how humans dispersed from Africa, and their way of life, we also have to find all their settlements. Quite a few of these are currently underwater, since the sea level is higher today than during the last glaciation. Humans have always prefered coastal sites.

These sites have been known, but only through scattered finds. We now have the technology for more detailed interpretations of the landscape.

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Bottom line: A newly-discovered underwater Stone Age site off the coast of Sweden was a fishing lagoon for Mesolithic people.

Read more from Lund University

Eleanor Imster