- Martin Hovland, MSc PhD, FGS
The Holocene time-period on the geological time scale is defined as the period following the last glaciation, about 14,000 to 15,000 years ago, until the present (‘Holocene’, after the Greek words: ‘halos’, entire, and ‘ceno’, new). Although this is a short period in the geological sense, it is an important and defining period for the immigration and settlement by modern humans (Homo sapiens) to northern Europe/Scandinavia.
The county of Sola, just south of Stavanger, SW-Norway, has a rather unique geographical locality and physiography of low-lying country on the North Sea coast, it became accessible for long-range hunter gatherers due to early deglaciation in the Mesolithic (middle stone age), abt 14,600 years BP, and thereafter, for nomads and settlers in the Neolithic (new stone age) and Minoan (bronze age).
The early presence of humans at Sola has provided archaeologists with thousands of traces and artefacts that tell a story of the waxing and waning of settlers, followed by abandonment and resettling, – up through the ages, mainly due to shifting climate throughout the Holocene.
This story is patched together in six installments and renders a crude narrative based on the archaeological evidence and what we know about the shifting physical environment surrounding Sola. We start with a description of the pre-settlement period, and follow as best possible where and how the settlers arrived, with small glimpses of culture from the Mesolithic, through the Neolithic, to the Minoan, ending with the age of the Vikings.
The parts will cover the following aspects:
- Part 1: General introduction to the series.
- Part 2: Transition from interglacial (Eem) to glaciation (Weichsel), to the current interglacial period, Holocene, including changing sea-levels: transgressions and regressions.
- Part 3: The very first Mesolithic settlers at Sola, – first ever settlement of Homo sapiens in SW Norway.
- Part 4: The mysterious Bronze Age (Minoan): Long-distant, wealthy visitors (or climate refugees).
- Part 5: Denser populations in the Iron Age: Agriculture and the first village.
- Part 6: The Viking age at Sola: Mighty Erling Skjalgsson and his wife Astrid.
The county of Sola (58° 55’ N, 5° 40’ E; Figure 1) located in coastal Norway has a long and rich history of archaeological finds that date back to when Norway was first populated, immediately after the Weichselian glaciation. This glaciation culminated during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 19,000 years BP. The warming started then, and continued for about 6,000 years before a short, new glaciation pulse arrived, during the Younger Dryas (YD), 12,800 years BP. This 1200 year long, brutally cold period, caused the fast-retreating glaciers to suddenly stop, and re-advance, leaving tell-tale morainic ridges along the advancing ice margin throughout Scandinavia and Siberia (Mangerud, 2021). The nearest YD-morainic ridge, to Sola, occurs in the Lysefjord, about 30 km inland.