New research has shown that some of the earliest farmers who settled in Denmark
were not local Scandinavian folk as previous thought but immigrants who travelled into the area.
The findings from author Lasse Sorenson showed that rather than Danish hunter gatherers, the evidence shows that some of the first people to live in Denmark had emigrated from central Europe instead.
Flint axes offer clue to immigrant roots
The study was presented by its author, Lasse Sorenson, at the National Museum of Denmark during its recent conference on 'Northern Worlds'.
The audience was startled to learn that rather than Denmark having its roots firmly planted amongst local Scandinavian settlers, it was populated by early humans in the Neolithic age from central Europe instead.
An example of a flint axe
Sorenson said that the main evidence was gleaned after a study of the flint mines and axes which were used by the earliest farmers in Denmark. However, the author said these could not have originated from the Scandinavian area, but instead were a new technology which travelled up from the central and south regions.
The start of farming in Denmark
Sorenson said that it was only around 6000 years ago that the idea of farming started to take hold in Scandinavia and also Denmark itself. These started in southern Scandinavia where it appears the notion of farming first came to life.
Up until this point, settlers were simple hunter gatherers with no evidence of using the flint axe more popularly seen in central Europe at the time.
Modern farming in Denmark
However, research has shown there is extensive evidence of the use of flint axes in these new agricultural hubs in Denmark and elsewhere in southern Scandinavia, proving irrefutably that the first farmer were immigrants who had travelled hundreds of miles before settling.
Farming in central Europe took hold around 1000 years earlier then it hit Scandinavia, with agriculture becoming widespread approximately 7000 years ago. This involved both farming the land and keeping animals as livestock for the first time.
How immigrants started farming
Sorenson explained that in agriculture thousands of years ago, it was necessary to learn fast in order to prevent starvation, and farming didn't leave much room for failure.
The PhD researcher pointed to the skills of 'sowing, harvesting, clearing' plus the skills around 'animal conditions' to learn. Any prolonged failure would result in a poor harvest, a harsh lesson to learn which wouldn't have been sustainable for long periods without catastrophic results.
When farming first appeared in Scandinavia, a polished flint axe was used, perfect for clearing tough forestry away, and a very effective tool. Sorenson says that if the tools had been constructed with purely local knowledge, materials from nearby beaches would have been used as before, not the very different polished flint.
And it is this flint which links the first Danish farmers to immigrants from central Europe. Sorenson has identified the tool as being identical to that used in the Neolithic age Michelsberg culture located deep in central Europe.
Lasse Sorenson said that it is these 'new ideas' which marked the cross cultural movement in Europe approximately 6000 years ago.
The flint used in the Scandinavian tools was similar to that found in the mines in the Michelsberg culture, pointing to an influx of immigrations to Denmark
who taught local Scandinavians how to use a better tool and the skills of harvesting the ground and keeping animals.