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Vulnerable Hunter-Gatherer-Fishers in Mesolithic Norway? Discussing the Social Impact of the Storegga Tsunami 8200 Years Ago

Nyland, Astrid J.

Abstract

In a new project starting in January 2021, the social impact of a large Storegga tsunami affecting both sides of the North Sea in the Middle Mesolithic will be discussed. Geologists have demonstrated the tsunami’s range and impact, and in archaeological literature the event is often referred to as a disaster. In Scotland, the wave is seen as augmenting the impact of the 8.2 climatic cold event. However, is there a paradox here? Hunter-gatherer-fishers are in archaeology and anthropology often interpreted and portrayed as highly adaptable, spontaneous, flexible and well equipped for reorientation, exploitation of a variety of niches in order to survive. Nevertheless, both the tsunami as well as the climatic cold event have in archaeological literature been assumed disastrous for the coastal communities. Both views appear to rest on the presumption that the existing Mesolithic coastal societies were primarily vulnerable, that the communities lacked strategies that would enable them to reorganize and rebound facing dramatic events. Should we regard the coastal population of the Mesolithic as vulnerable, or were they instead resilient, or both? – and is there a way to find out?

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