Archaeologists find ‘mini-Pompeii’
October 1, 2010
The most well-preserved pottery from the Stone Age ever found in Norway has turned up in an unspoiled dwelling site not far from Kristiansand. The find is considered an archaeological sensation.
The discovery of a “sealed” Stone Age house site from 3500 BC has stirred great excitement among archaeologists from Norway’s Museum of Cultural History at the University in Oslo. The settlement site at Hamresanden, close to Kristiansand’s airport at Kjevik in Southern Norway, looks like it was covered by a sandstorm, possibly in the course of a few hours.
The catastrophe for the Stone Age occupants has given archaeologists an untouched “mini-Pompeii,” containing both whole and reparable pots.
“This is the first time we’ve made a find like this in Norway,” the spokesperson for the Hamresanden excavation, assistant professor Håkon Glørstad, told newspaper Aftenposten.
“Usually, clay pots from this period, which we call traktbegerkulturen, (literally, “the funnel beaker culture”) are broken and in tiny pieces,” Glørstad said. “Here we find them almost intact. One entirely complete vessel, 25 to 30 cm deep, with a 35-cm diameter at the rim, has been taken out of the ground packed in its clod of soil.”
Glørstad it will be “carefully and finally stripped of the last of the earth, in about the same way that one uncovers a dinosaur skeleton.” He added that the team working on the site at Hamresanden has discovered so many large shards of pottery that they think they can put together as many as eight beaker-shaped vessels.
“This is an archaeological sensation,” Glørstad claimed.
The dwelling site lies 11 meters over sea level today, but was at the water’s edge 5,500 years ago. The find is located at the modern Hamresanden camping site, some 70 to 80 meters from today’s shoreline.
Excavations were started prior to building retirement homes on the land. The discoveries were made at a depth of two meters below ground. So far around 300 square meters have been excavated, resulting in the need to transport enormous amounts of soil.
“During this period, Norway was much drier than today, and sandstorms were far from rare, as various strata of sand deposits at the site show,” Glørstad told Aftenposten. “Last year’s pilot survey suggested that we might find something here. The site is ideally situated for a coastal settlement, next to the mouth of a river of significant proportions.”
He said the archaeologists have also found as many as 20 arrowheads and tailings from tool production, including “complete wooden artifacts.”
The excavations at Hamresanden may yield new information not only about this particular site, but also about how the shoreline has changed in this part of Southern Norway. When this site was inhabited, it was nine meters lower than today, while the Oslo area was 37 meters lower in the same period, since the innland regions were weighed down further under the weight of ice from the Ice Age.
“As the sea level was even lower in times preceding this, we can expect to find much older dwelling sites under water in the same area,” says Glørstad to Aftenposten.
See also: New images may yield Viking ships