Event reconstruction through Bayesian chronology: Massive mid-Holocene lake-burst triggered large-scale ecological and cultural change

Markku Oinonen, Petro Anssi Pellervo Pesonen, Teija Helena Alenius, Volker Heyd, Elisabeth Holmqvist-Saukkonen, Sanna-Maria (Sanna) Kivimäki, Tuire Nygrén, Tarja Sundell, Päivi Onkamo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Precise timing of natural and cultural events provides a foundation for understanding how past natural phenomena have driven changes in population
and culture. In this study, we used high-resolution Bayesian chronology to describe an event sequence of a massive and abrupt water level decline of
a large lake and the contemporaneous cultural changes that occurred in eastern Fennoscandia during the mid-Holocene. The study provides the first
transdisciplinary analysis of the causes and effects of the events by using a combination of archaeological, geological and ecological data. Nearly 6000 years
ago, ancient Lake Saimaa, estimated to cover nearly 9000 km2at the time, was abruptly discharged through a new outlet. The event created thousands of
square kilometres of new residual wetlands. The archaeological record shows a profound cultural replacement and a subsequent sharp human population
maximum in the area during the decades after the decline in water level. During the population maximum, the proportion of Alces alces (moose) in the
diet rapidly increased and became prominent as a dietary resource. The eventual population decline in the area coincided with ecological development
towards old boreal conifer forests, along with the colonization of a new species of tree Picea abies (Norway spruce). The new ecosystem was less suitable
for moose to forage in, and this attenuated the dietary role of moose and thus contributed towards the eventual population and cultural decline. The
methodological approach described in this paper allowed the reconstruction of past natural and cultural events and demonstrated how they can be
causally intertwined.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1419–1427
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 615 History and Archaeology

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