The Scandinavian Ice Sheet as a barrier for Human colonization of Norway
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Original versionIn: Dag Erik Færø Olsen (ed.) (2022). The Stone Age Conference in Bergen 2017.
Several times during the Last Ice Age, the ice sheet covered only mountain areas so that it theoretically was possible for humans to colonize coastal areas of Norway. The last time this happened prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM: 26,000–19,000 years ago) was during the Ålesund Interstadial, 38,000–34,000 years ago. However, no traces of human presence have been found from these ice-free intervals. Following the LGM, it was not until the Bølling Interstadial (14,700–14,000 years ago) that ice-free areas were large enough to host a potentially permanent human population. Some archaeologists previously considered that people arrived at the west coast of Norway this early, but most scientists now reject this hypothesis. An ice sheet margin that crossed Oslofjorden formed a physical barrier that probably prohibited human immigration this early. The oldest documented traces of humans show that they settled the coast during the first centuries after the onset of the Holocene 11,600 years ago, at a time when the shrinking ice sheet still covered the interior of Norway. The ice margin was located in the lowlands in eastern Norway until 10,500 years ago. Based the available data we assume that the entire Scandinavia became ice-free 10,000–9500 years ago.