Mesolithic Seal Hunters On a Hilltop Near You

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Today I joined my friends Mattias Pettersson and Roger Wikell for a day of digging on an Early Mesolithic seal hunting station in the landlocked former archipelago of Tyresta. The Urskogsstigen 4 site is currently on a wooded hilltop at about 77 meters above sea level, and thus likely to date from about 8000 cal BC, shortly after deglaciation. It’s not in the area denuded by the 1999 forest fore. What’s really striking about this particular site (Mattias & Roger have found hundreds) is that it’s very early, it has enormous amounts of quartz débitage and it has a tent-sized cleared area surrounded by large boulders (similar to the one that blew Mattias’s mind last summer).

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I found a lot of unusually finely knapped quartz — bipolar cores and blade-like things, thin, semi-translucent — and Roger picked up a really nice little hammer stone with unmistakable use wear. It’s probably the oldest one collected in the entire county. The guys already have a piece of hazelnut shell for dating. Pretty amazing to find all this insanely old material in a tract of completely nondescript woodland just like I’ve been hiking in since I was a kid.

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We heard cuckoos and ravens calling as we worked, and toward the end of the day, the jingle of a distant ice-cream truck. All the while, a few hundred meters downhill a small television crew was shooting a kiddie TV program about a cartoonish Stone Age where people were grimy and wore chicken bones in their hair.

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Mesolithic Scholar Happy to Get High

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My old buddy from undergrad days, hard-core Mesolithic scholar, painter and woodsman Mattias Pettersson, sent me a pair of wonderful breathless letters on 19 and 21 July about new high-end discoveries. This is all about ancient seal-hunting camps in an area with dramatic shore displacement, which is why Mattias is so happy to get high — 75 meters above current sea level! High means early here, so early that the top sites are pushing the chronological limit set by the last Ice Age. (More context & pix here). I quote (and translate) with Mattias’s permission:
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