Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ancient Baltic Sea Shores (Muru, 2017)

This dissertation by Merle Muru re-creates the coasts of the Estonian shores using various data, including archaeological, but it's built on a succession of his studies into the Baltic shorelines.

It confirms that the succession of cultures in this area (Kunda, Narva, Corded Ware) preferred settlement locations that were quite different.  In fact, it could be inferred that the changing landscape of the Baltic attracted different cultural life-ways at different times. 

Wild Cabbage (Brassica Oleracea) by the Sea (Microfarmgardens)
The Kunda folk lived along the rivers in the Baltic region until they are succeeded by the Narva Culture around 5,000 B.C.  Modern archaeological opinion is that the Narva Culture is basically Kunda 2.0 with pottery.  Probably more complex than this.  Already we have seen what appears to be genetic enrichment in this area from the Volgan woodsmen cultures that were expanding North and West during this time.

Narva folk may have been attracted to the changing landscape that created large brackish lagoons.  Their point-based pottery is a low-fire, heat tolerant pottery that likely cooked seafood and pork fat in.  Their diet seems to have consisted more of sea critters and pork.  Some temporary settlements on open shorelines suggests they periodically went out to sea to club baby seals to death.

There is a question as to the purpose of their point-based pottery, but it probably relates to seafood preparation or how it was set in the campfire.  Also, if the pottery was used for fermenting fish and cabbage, or alcohols, then maybe it is possible that point-based pottery is advantageous for concentrating the surface area of the trub?  The kinds of fatty, brackish water fish fished out of the lagoons and deltas may have needed preservation by fermentation, such as modern surströmming, since many of these fish are not well suited for drying or smoking preservation.

The Narva Culture is joined, rather than directly superseded, by the Corded Ware culture that preferred the fertile river bottoms created by the lower water levels, such as in graphic D of Northeast Estonia.  The fertile grassland would be readily tillable and very suitable for cattle.

It's interesting that modern Baltic cuisine, fish, krauts, pork is basically unchanged for so long.  Also, it may be possible to overlay genetic results to see how different peoples migrate to familiar biomes.

GIS-based palaeogeographical reconstructions of the Baltic Sea shores in Estonia and adjoining areas during the Stone Age.  Merle Muru (2017)  DISSERTATIONES GEOGRAPHICAE UNIVERSITATIS TARTUENSIS [Link]


  1. "they periodically went out to sea to club baby seals to death."


  2. I wonder if the same clubbing was done at Lake Baikal & Caspian Sea.
    No evidence of food-storage cairns at the Baltic Sea region as in the far north?
    I've hypothesized that pyramids & ziggurats originated from post-Ice Age food & body preservation methods using ice blocks, later adapted by sub-tropic societies.

    1. Off topic, I guess I could see graves originating out of food storage pits, although taking place eons prior. So I guess that theory could work.