Maritime Hunter-Gatherers Adopt Cultivation at the Farming extreme of Northern Europe 5000 Years Ago

Santeri Vanhanen, Stefan Gustafsson, Håkan Ranheden, Niclas Björck, Marianna Kemell, Volker Heyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The dynamics of the origins and spread of farming are globally debated in anthropology and archaeology. Lately, numerous aDNA studies have turned the tide in favour of migrations, leaving only a few cases in Neolithic Europe where hunter-gatherers might have adopted agriculture. It is thus widely accepted that agriculture was expanding to its northern extreme in Sweden c. 4000 BC by migrating Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) farmers. This was followed by intense contacts with local hunter-gatherers, leading to the development of the Pitted Ware Culture (PWC), who nonetheless relied on maritime prey. Here, we present archaeobotanical remains from Sweden and the Aland archipelago (Finland) showing that PWC used free-threshing barley and hulled and free-threshing wheat from c. 3300 BC. We suggest that these hunter-gatherers adopted cultivation from FBC farmers and brought it to islands beyond the 60th parallel north. Based on directly dated grains, land areas suitable for cultivation, and absence of signs of exchange with FBC in Sweden, we argue that PWC cultivated crops in Aland. While we have isotopic and lipid-biomarker proof that their main subsistence was still hunting/fishing/gathering, we argue small-scale cereal use was intended for ritual feasts, when cereal products could have been consumed with pork.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4756
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 116 Chemical sciences
  • 615 History and Archaeology

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