Scandinavians learned food fermentation 9,000 years ago

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London, Feb 9 (IANS) In what is believed to be the earliest evidence of fermentation in Scandinavia, from the Early Mesolithic time period about 9,200 years ago, researchers have discovered 200,000 well preserved fish bones in and around a pit in Sweden.

The findings suggest that the people living in the area more than 9,000 years ago were more settled and cultured than commonly thought, the researchers said.

The Mesolithic period, which spanned around 10,000-5,000 BC, marked the time before people started farming in Europe.

At this time, researchers previously believed groups of people in Scandinavia caught fish from the sea, lakes and rivers and moved around following the sources of food they could find.

“This is a really exciting and surprising finding that gives us a completely new picture of how the group lived,” said study author Adam Boethius from Lund University in Sweden.

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“We had never seen a site like this with so many well preserved fish bones, so it was amazing to find,” Boethius noted.

The new research suggests the foraging people actually settled much earlier than previously thought.

They stored huge amounts of fish in one place by fermenting it, suggesting the people had more advanced technology and a more sedentary life than was thought.

If the people were more sedentary, they would have been better able to develop culture.

This makes the culture more comparable to the Neolithic people in the Middle East, who were traditionally thought to have settled much earlier than their northern European counterparts, the researchers said.

The findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Boethius and his colleagues had been excavating a site at Norje Sunnansund to rescue any artifacts from Mesolithic settlements before a road was built.

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As they started to dig, they found lots of fish bones, which indicated people had lived there. They then uncovered an elongated pit or gutter surrounded by small stake holes and completely filled with fish bones.

The excavation involved 16 archaeologists during five months. Boethius analysed the feature and the contents and discovered the fish bones were from freshwater fish.

He also showed the fish had been fermented — a skilful way of preserving food without using salt.

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