A human skull found near a popular swimming beach south of Bergen on Norway’s West Coast last spring initially set off murder alarms. Now the police can instead report nothing short of a sensation, after test results showed the skull to be around 9,000 years old.
“This is a sensational discovery,” Anne Karin Hufthammer of the University Museum in Bergen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) of Thursday. “This is one of the oldest discoveries of a person in all of Scandinavia.”
Much older than initially thought
The skull was found by people out walking in the area around Kyrkjetangen in Bergen on May 20. They called police, who immediately cordoned off the area and linked the skull to several unresolved cases of missing persons.
Pathologists at the Gades Institute in Bergen quickly determined that the skull was old, though, possibly dating back to the Middle Ages. Now scientific analysis has revealed that it’s much older than that, and it offers new evidence that people lived in the Bergen area during the Stone Age.
“We haven’t found anything like this for many years,” Hufthammer told NRK.
Researchers haven’t been able to determine the sex of the person whose skull was found, but think it belonged to a man. Since no other bones were found in the area, they aren’t sure how tall the person was either. “But we believe it was a person of normal size, not especially big or small,” Hufthammer said. “The cranium is very special, though, with unusual formation around the sinuses and eye sockets we’ve never seen before.” She and her colleagues think the person ate a diet of seal, other seafood and shell fish.
The skull found at Kyrkjetangen was said to be unusually well-preserved and as old as another skull found at nearby Bleivik in 1952. “Now we have the possibility to compare the two, which are from the same time and not far from each other,” Hufthammer told NRK. “That can give us important answers to questions about migration to Norway and Scandinavia. We only have one other such discovery in Norway.” That was the so-called Søgnekvinnen, also called “Sol,” found at Søgne in 1994 and believed to be around 10,000 years old.
Researchers think the remains of the person found in Bergen last spring may have been buried at sea, or drowned, because of signs the skull, and perhaps its missing skeleton, has been in fresh water. The oldest settlement ever found in the Bergen area is at Minde, in an area that once was on the seashore. Traces of the settlement are believed to be around 10,000 years old, but no human remains were ever found.