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Marine resource abundance drove pre-agricultural population increase in Stone Age Scandinavia

Lewis, J. P.


J. P. Lewis


How climate and ecology affect key cultural transformations remains debated in the context of long-term socio-cultural development because of spatially and temporally disjunct climate and archaeological records. The introduction of agriculture triggered a major population increase across Europe. However, in Southern Scandinavia it was preceded by ~500 years of sustained population growth. Here we show that this growth was driven by long-term enhanced marine production conditioned by the Holocene Thermal Maximum, a time of elevated temperature, sea level and salinity across coastal waters. We identify two periods of increased marine production across trophic levels (P1 7600–7100 and P2 6400–5900 cal. yr BP) that coincide with markedly increased mollusc collection and accumulation of shell middens, indicating greater marine resource availability. Between ~7600–5900 BP, intense exploitation of a warmer, more productive marine environment by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers drove cultural development, including maritime technological innovation, and from ca. 6400–5900 BP, underpinned a ~four-fold human population growth.


Lewis, J. P., Ryves, D. B., Rasmussen, P., Olsen, J., van der Sluis, L. G., Reimer, P. J., …Juggins, S. (2020). Marine resource abundance drove pre-agricultural population increase in Stone Age Scandinavia. Nature Communications, 11,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 24, 2020
Publication Date Apr 24, 2020
Deposit Date Aug 21, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 24, 2020
Journal Nature Communications
Electronic ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Article Number 2006
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Physics and Astronomy; General Chemistry
Public URL
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Additional Information Received: 15 August 2019; Accepted: 28 February 2020; First Online: 24 April 2020; : The authors declare no competing interests.


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