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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access April 28, 2022

Preliminary Results and Research Perspectives on the Submerged Stone Age Sites in Storstrømmen, Denmark

Klara Fiedler, Morten Johansen and Andreas G. Binder
From the journal Open Archaeology

Abstract

This article gives an overview of the survey campaigns and excavations undertaken within an area of the sound Storstrømmen in southeast Denmark from 2014 to 2017. Before the construction of a new bridge over the sound, geophysical data from the bridge corridor and other areas affected by the development project were used to give a representation of the moraine till as a proxy for the submerged prehistoric topography, with the topographical interpretation serving as a base for appointing areas with high potential for finding well-preserved Mesolithic sites. Several new Mesolithic sites were found during test excavations. The sites are preserved at different depths in the channel and range in date over the entire Danish Mesolithic period. All sites are located along former waterfronts, and the majority showed good preservation for organic material. Four of the discovered sites have been subject to excavations. The sites are located at different elevations and have between them the potential of contributing to the understanding of the human response to the dramatic topographic and environmental change that took place in Storstrømmen during the Atlantic period as a consequence of the rising sea level.

1 Introduction

In advance of several development projects in the sound of Storstrømmen between the Danish islands of Masnedø and Falster, the Viking Ship Museum has carried out archaeological investigations of areas totalling approximately 3,620,000 m2. The archaeological potential of the submerged landscape in the area is good: the area is characterised by relatively large differences in the water depth, with curved fossil coastlines and waterfronts along former fjords, streams, and basins. Organic deposits and a calm depositional environment within the former basins and fjord systems furthermore prompt good preservation conditions for archaeological sites and organic material. A number of submerged Mesolithic sites are already known from the wider area of Smålands farvandet as shown in Figure 1. Very few of the sites have, however, been excavated, and fewer still have been published. Exceptions being the Kongemose site Argusgrunden (Fischer et al., 1987) and the Ertebølle sites in the Karbæk-Dybsø fjord system (Johansson, 1999).

Figure 1 
               Map showing known sites and traces of Mesolithic activity in Smålandsfarvandet, south-eastern Denmark. Site information from Fund & Fortidsminder at https://www.kulturarv.dk/fundogfortidsminder/Kort/.

Figure 1

Map showing known sites and traces of Mesolithic activity in Smålandsfarvandet, south-eastern Denmark. Site information from Fund & Fortidsminder at https://www.kulturarv.dk/fundogfortidsminder/Kort/.

In coherence with Danish heritage legislation (Museumsloven), the developers, in this case the Danish Road Directorate, the power company Energinet and the Harbour of Vordingborg, funded the archaeological investigations and the projects therefore had to work within the limits of clear-cut budgets and a limited timeframe accommodating the progress of construction work. The development projects in the area included the construction of a new bridge, rerouting of a power cable, a harbour expansion, rerouting of one shipping lane, and the expansion of another. Challenging technical circumstances with water depths up to 19 m, frequent strong currents, and sediment covers of up to 8 m were basic work conditions, making the practical limitations concerning excavation methods a pivotal point in the project designs.

The desk-based assessments of the areas were carried out in 2013–2015. During 2015 and 2016, test excavations and surveys were conducted, and in 2016 and 2017, four sites were partially excavated. At the point of writing, the post-processing and field reports are still in progress, so what we present here are the preliminary results as well as some of the research potential from the excavations, as we see it at this point.

2 Project Designs – Archaeological Potential and Practical Limitations

The postglacial rise in the sea level significantly changed the topography of southern Scandinavia: lowlands were flooded, valleys became fjords, and hills transformed into islands. Large areas of the land that were accessible for Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people became submerged during the early Holocene, culminating within the Atlantic period. Mesolithic sites on these former land surfaces are generally affected by erosion and sedimentation to a much larger degree than their dryland counterparts (Flemming, Harff, Moura, Burgess, & Bailey, 2017). This means that natural site formation processes eradicate cultural layers and settlement surfaces and redeposit flint material over large areas. Sedimentation is generally predominant at sites that were topographically sheltered from erosional effects of waves and current (Flemming, Harff, & Moura, 2017). Here, preservation conditions for organic material are often extremely good, especially in the nearshore, shallow, refuse layers of coastal sites (Bailey, Andersen, & Maarleveld, 2020; Fischer, 2018; Gregory & Matthiesen, 2018). The overarching strategy during the projects was to locate and excavate such sheltered sites with organic preservation.

Focus areas for the projects were as follows: (1) Locating and excavating chronologically pure Mesolithic sites. The rapid sea-level rise in the area during the Atlantic period raises the possibility of finding sites with a short occupation period. (2) Locating and excavating Mesolithic sites with good preservation conditions for organic material. The protected environment within the former lake and fjord systems and the anaerobic waterlogged sediments constitute prime conditions for preservation. (3) Collecting environmental material that can shed light on the development of the environment and landscape, especially the sea-level change and the human adaption to this.

The geophysical survey covering an area of 14 km2 constituted the basis for the desk-based assessment. The surface of the postglacial terrain, in combination with present bathymetry, geotechnical cores, and generated sedimentation profiles, was used for appointing areas of high potential for preserved Mesolithic sites in the area (Figure 2).

Figure 2 
               Map showing the interpreted postglacial terrain in the survey area, appointed areas with high potential for preserved Mesolithic sites and sites found during investigations.

Figure 2

Map showing the interpreted postglacial terrain in the survey area, appointed areas with high potential for preserved Mesolithic sites and sites found during investigations.

The map of the postglacial surface (Figure 2) shows two fossil basins towards the east with depths up to 24 m, separated by an elevation with a minimum depth of around 7.5 m. To the west is another basin with depths up to 20 m. A threshold around 10 m below the present sea level separates the western and eastern basins.

Fifty locations were selected for archaeological test excavations (Figure 2). The areas were located at depths spanning from 1–21 m and hence encompassed the possibility of locating sites ranging in the date over the entire Danish Mesolithic, including the Maglemose culture (8900–6550 BC), the Kongemose culture (6550–5400 BC), and the Ertebølle culture (5400–3900 BC) (Sørensen, 2017, pp. 17–18, 36). The potential for preservation of Palaeolithic sites within the area was also taken into consideration.

The main topographical criteria for selecting areas was proximity to water (former lakeshores, riverbanks, and coastlines). Of special interest were locations, which were once favourable for fishing with stationary fishing structures, such as the mouths of streams, at narrows in the fjords, and on small islands and headlands (e.g. Fischer, 1997; Sørensen, 2017). We acknowledge that other topographical locations may also have been favoured for occupation, such as, for example, vantage point on hills and ridges, but due to erosion of submerged elevations, preservation conditions on such locations are poor.

The planning of test excavations within the appointed areas posed large challenges. The less intrusive method is hand-coring followed by excavation of 1 m2 test pits by divers. This approach gives a good overview of the stratigraphy and further has the advantage that all excavated sediments are sieved through a 4 mm × 4 mm net during excavation with a hand-held dredge. Drawbacks of the method is that it is very time consuming and that detecting structures, evident or latent, is very difficult through 1 m × 1 m peepholes. In addition, test excavation with divers has a vertical limitation to c. 1.5 m below the seafloor. The method, which on land presents the best possibility for detecting structures, is using a mechanical excavator to remove the topsoil over a larger area. This is a nearly impossible approach under water, not only due to safety reasons for the diving archaeologist but also due to visibility, which is generaly somewhere between 2 cm and 2 m in Danish waters. Furthermore, sediment transport under water swiftly covers depressions in the seabed, making it difficult to maintain larger open surfaces.

None of the aforementioned approaches were viable for the test excavations. Instead, we used a vessel with a mechanical excavator to raise buckets of sediment onto the deck of the vessel. Test pit positions were selected from a 10 m × 10 m grid laid out over the appointed areas. The stratified blocks of sediment were then excavated in the bucket on deck of the vessel. The method was intrusive to the sites, and the stratigraphy of sediment raised to deck often showed some degree of distortion. However, the method did give an overview of stratigraphy and distribution of flint and organic material in the appointed areas and proved to be very effective for locating sites and accessing their state of preservation. No structures were found during the test excavations. This might be because settlement surfaces are often exposed to erosion during transgression (Bailey & Jöns, 2020; Flemming et al., 2017), but perhaps it also indicates that the method used is not suitable for detecting structures. In the cable route, test excavations were performed with divers. Here, the development area consisted of a 1-meter wide corridor, and the sediment thicknesses were less extensive.

Test excavations were conducted in 47 of the appointed areas (two areas have yet to be test excavated due to active cables in the area, and one proved to be outside of the impact area of the construction work). Worked flint was found in 43 of the areas. At seven sites, the preservation conditions and/or archaeological value of the found material prompted an excavation. Of these, three sites could be bypassed during the construction work and were preserved in situ, leaving four sites that required excavation. Excavations were carried out with divers, 1 m2 at a time, following the stratigraphy of the site. All sites were only partially excavated, with 12–94 m2 per site, starting in the area with the presumed highest artefact concentration and expanding the excavation following the density of the distribution. Finds were attributed to square meter and layer. All sediments were sieved through a 4 mm × 4 mm net. Radiocarbon dates from the sites are presented in Table 1.

Table 1

Radiocarbon dates from the sites. Dates have been calibrated using the InterCal13 curve in BetaCal 3.21

Site Lab code Material Radiocarbon age BP Cal. BC 95.4% probability Cal. BC 95.4% probability
Vordingborg Vesthavn Beta-531294 Seeds 7380 ± 30 6373–6111 6242 ± 131
Vordingborg Vesthavn Beta-534946 Nutshell 7520 ± 30 6452–6266 6359 ± 93
Orehoved Sejlrende Beta-479655 Nutshell 7220 ± 30 6207–6016 6112 ± 96
Orehoved Sejlrende Beta-479654 Nutshell 7100 ± 30 6033–5905 5969 ± 64
Orehoved Sejlrende Beta-479656 Nutshell 7160 ± 30 6070–5990 6030 ± 40
Kalverev, Lokalitet X Beta-499650 Nutshell 7130 ± 30 6061–5926 5994 ± 68
Kalverev, Lokalitet X Beta-479651 Charcoal 7080 ± 30 6016–5899 5958 ± 59
Kalverev, Lokalitet X Beta-479652 Bone 7360 ± 30 6357–6093 6225 ± 132
Orenæs, Kabel 8 Beta-509394 Seeds 6150 ± 30 5210–5009 5110 ± 101
Orenæs, Kabel 8 Beta-509395 Seeds 6090 ± 30 5204–4909 5057 ± 148

3 The Sites

3.1 Storstrømmen, Lokalitet A and B

The sites Lokalitet A and Lokalitet B are located at water depths of 10–12 m on both sides of a former lake/freshwater system (Figure 2). Within the basin, organic sediments were preserved from approximately 13 m below the sea level. One hundred fifty-four test pits were dug with a mechanical excavator in the area, revealing three concentrations of worked flint. Eight hundred six pieces of worked flint along with 207 fragments of organic material (fragmented bone, charcoal, burned hazelnut shells, and fishbone) were found during the test excavations. Based on morphological and technological traits of the flint material, the northern-most concentration (Lokalitet B) is dated to the Maglemose culture (8900–6550 BC). The two other concentrations (Lokalitet A) date to the Maglemose (8900–6550 BC) and/or Kongemose culture (6550–5400 BC). All flint materials were found in a transgressional gravel layer, which was most likely redeposited during the transgression of the sites. The sites could be bypassed during the construction work and no excavation was conducted in the area (Johansen, 2017).

3.2 Vordingborg Vesthavn

The site Vordingborg Vesthavn was found during test excavations in the shipping lane of Vordingborg Harbour (Bohr & Hyttel, 2016) (Figure 2).

An area of 27 m2 was excavated at the site (Figure 3). The excavated area is estimated to make up approximately 1.4% of the site’s total area based on the distribution of worked flint recorded during test excavations. The site is located around 8–9 m below the present sea level, on the edge of a depression in the postglacial terrain. Gyttja deposits within the basin indicate that the site, during its time of use, was located on the edge of a freshwater basin or stream, where stones and flint blanks were eroded out of the moraine surface. A tightly packed layer of boulders and stones, including flint, was present at the site. The excavated worked flint at the site numbered 8,636 pieces and consists mostly of flakes and test-knapped nodules. Formal tools are almost completely absent in the material (Table 2). The site is interpreted as a gathering and test knapping site. It has not been possible to date the site precisely. However, the site is overgrown by alder swamp peat formation. Radiocarbon dates, from the top of the peat layer (beta-531294: 6242 ± 131 cal. BC) and top of the underlying layer (beta-534946: 6359 ± 93 cal. BC), indicate that the alder swamp formed over the site during the early Kongemose culture and gives a terminus ante quem for the site (Fiedler, 2019).

Figure 3 
                  
                     Vordingborg Vesthavn, site plan and profiles. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed.

Figure 3

Vordingborg Vesthavn, site plan and profiles. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed.

Table 2

Total amount of worked and charred flint excavated at Vordingborg Vesthavn, Orehoved Sejlrende, Kalverev, Lokalitet X and Orenæs, Kabel 8

Vordingborg Vesthavn Orehoved Sejlrende Kalverev, lokalitet X Orenæs, kabel 8
Blade core 140 9 32
Microblade core 1
Handle core 3
Nodule, one or a few flake negatives 190 50 14 67
Crush stone 1 1 1
Blade 170 4,460 748 191
Microblade 141 570 114
Crested blade 12 1
Platform rejuvenation flake 16 2 7
Platform preparation flake 6 3
Flake from blade core front 66 721 20 47
Flake 7,314 14,731 3,766 4,542
Core axe 1 76 11 9
Core axe preform 13 1 2
Flake axe 1 2 1 2
Pointed axe 9
Large pointed flint weapon 2
Oblique arrowhead 302 58
Transverse arrowhead 4 1 38
Microlith 1 1
Micorburin 280 41 3
Ahrensburgian point 1
Core drill 4 2
Blade drill 3 2
Flake drill 1 5 7
Blade knife 14 5
Blade with retouch 95 13 5
Blades with pronounced wear retouch 12 7
Blade scraper 24 3
Flake scraper 1 4 3
Burin 107 15 8
Burin spall 78 12 6
Flake with retouch 39 18 5
Flint with retouch 1 21 6
Charred flint 725 5,752 2,774 779
Total 8,636 27,540 7,654 5,755

3.3 Orehoved Sejlrende

As a consequence of the bridge construction, the entry channel to the nearby harbour of Orehoved had to be relocated. During test excavations in the area of the new channel, a large amount of flint, dating to the Kongemose culture (6550–5400 BC), emerged in the bucket of the excavator. The material contained large regular blades, cores, core axes, oblique arrowheads, and a large amount of flakes and charred flint. In addition, organic materials such as animal bones and charred hazelnut shells were found. The material was derived from two sites located on either side of the mouth of a former small inlet, running north – south, and opening into Storstrømmen. The inlet only appears faintly on the interpreted postglacial terrain (Figure 2), but stood out clearly during test pitting in the area (Gutehall & Dencker, 2015). The mouth of the inlet was quite narrow, approximately 45 m, depending on the stage of marine transgression in the area. At both sites, the archaeological material was located in two find horizons, consisting of sand/gravel, located 4–7.3 m below the present sea level. Both sites were, based on the morphology of the arrowheads (Petersen, 2008, p. 88; Sørensen, 2017, pp. 39–43), dated to the Kongemose culture’s Villingebæk phase (6150–5800 BC) with a smaller number of the Vedbæk phase (5800–5400 BC). The recorded find distribution of the two sites spanned an area over 26,140 m2, exceeding the development area toward both the east and west.

As it was not feasible to excavate the entire area, supplemental test excavations were conducted with a mechanical excavator and with divers to identify the areas with best preservation conditions for organic material and the most likely areas where parts of the original settlement surfaces might have survived the erosional effects of the transgression. Furthermore, a microscopic analysis of the lithic material was conducted to determine to what extent the artefacts from the various test pits were modified by natural processes and thus redeposited and out of the primary context (Donahue, & Burroni, 2015; Donahue, Fischer, Burroni, Malm, & Johansen, 2019). Finally, an excavation with divers was undertaken at the western side of the inlet. The aim was to reach a clearer understanding of stratigraphy, looking for artefact-rich deposits of apparent undisturbed nature and searching for near-shore gyttja deposits containing organic cultural materials. A total of 94 m2 were excavated at water depths of 4.7–5.7 m (Johansen & Ravn, 2018). Within the excavated area (Figure 4) were found 25,178 pieces of worked flint and 6,552 animal bones/antlers. The stratigraphy of the site consisted from the top of (1) a layer of marine sand, (2) a coarse-grain marine gyttja with relatively few Mesolithic artefacts, and (3) a sand/gravel layer (interpreted as a beach- or transgressional layer, with hundreds of artefacts per square meter, all of which appear to have been washed out from the settlement surface and redeposited when the site was inundated), and (4) a terrestrial dirt/humus layer with many, very well-preserved artefacts of organic material and flint. Layer 4 most likely represents the sediment of the original settlement surface, but the micro-ware analysis of flint material from the layer (Donahue et al., 2019), as well as the archaeobotanical analysis of the layer (Hald & Jessen, 2018), indicates that the sediment was washed out of primary context. Radiocarbon-dated hazelnut shells from layer 3 (beta-479655: 6112 ± 96 cal. BC) and layer 4 (beta-479654: 5969 ± 64 cal. BC and beta-479656: 6030 ± 40 cal. BC) confirm the dating of the site to the Kongemosian Villingebæk phase.

Figure 4 
                  
                     Orehoved Sejlrende, site plan and profile. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed.

Figure 4

Orehoved Sejlrende, site plan and profile. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed.

Even though the micro-wear analysis suggests that flint from all layers has been redeposited to some degree, the state of preservation of flint artefacts, in particular form the lowest organic layer, was extraordinary, the majority being sharp and unpatinated. The lithic material illustrates a settlement site where the whole range of lithic debitage is represented (Table 2). The majority of the tools are blade tools (Table 2 and Figure 5a), produced on large regular blades made by indirect technique with antler punch, as is typical for the Kongemose culture (Karsten & Knarrström, 2003, pp. 38–49; Sørensen, 2017, p. 38). A large amount of core axes was also excavated (Figure 5b). Three hundred two oblique arrowheads were found at the site. One hundred eighty-five of these are, based on morphological traits, dated to the Villingebæk phase (6150–5800 BC), 44 to the Vedbæk phase (5800–5400 BC), and the remaining were too fragmented to be securely ascribed to type. Furthermore, 280 microburins, deriving from the production of arrowheads were excavated. Fragments of two large pointed flint weapons were also found (Figure 5c). Noteworthy also are the two hammer stones with ground edge facets, which were recovered (Figure 5d and e). Hammer stones with ground edge facets have been found in other Danish Kongemose contexts (Sørensen, 2017, pp. 56–57), and a possible interpretation of use for these stones is retouching, for example, for notches when micro-burin technique was employed for arrowhead making (Sørensen, 2017, pp. 56–57). One intact and three fragmentary pecked stone axes were found at the site. One butt fragment has an initiated hourglass-shaped perforation. The axe is broken through the unfinished hole (Figure 5f and g). A decorated piece of amber with a blind-drilled hole was also found (Figure 5h).

Figure 5 
                  Artefacts from Orehoved Sejrende, (a) blade knives, (b) core axe made on blade core, (c) fragment of large pointed weapon, (d–e) faceted hammer stones, (f–g) butt of round-butted pecked stone axe with initiated hourglass shaped perforation (h) decorated piece of amber with striations and blind drill hole (i) fragment of wooden shaft. Photos: (a–b) Irina Baez-Westerberg, (c–i) Morten Johansen.

Figure 5

Artefacts from Orehoved Sejrende, (a) blade knives, (b) core axe made on blade core, (c) fragment of large pointed weapon, (d–e) faceted hammer stones, (f–g) butt of round-butted pecked stone axe with initiated hourglass shaped perforation (h) decorated piece of amber with striations and blind drill hole (i) fragment of wooden shaft. Photos: (a–b) Irina Baez-Westerberg, (c–i) Morten Johansen.

Likewise, layer 4 had exceptional preservation conditions for organic material. Organic tools found at the site include a 15 cm long fragment of a broken wooden shaft made of acer (Acer sp.) with a worked knob at the base (Figure 5i), three antler punches, two antler axes, and seven bone bodkins. Species determination of the 3,960 mammal bones (Brodersen, 2019) suggest that red deer (Cervus cervus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) were the most common game animals. Also present in the assemblage were: beaver (Castor fiber), wolf (Canis lupes), dog (Canis familiaris), fox (Vulpes vulpes), hedgehog (Erinaceus eropaeus), wild cat (Felis silvetris), water vole (Arvicola terrestris), otter (Lutra lutra), and seal (Phoca sp.) (Table 3). The 127 bird bones represent at least 17 taxa with the highest number of fragments from swans (Cygnus sp.) (Table 3). The majority of the identified bird species are freshwater birds (ibid.). Likewise, the fishbone material (3,155 bones and bone fragments) consisted mainly (95%) of freshwater fish (Table 3) (Magnussen, 2019b). The high freshwater indications at the site might at first glance seem unexpected, with considerations of the high salinity otherwise demonstrated in Danish waters during the Atlantic period (Aaris-Sørensen, 1988); moreover, dated sea-level indication points show a fixed link between the Great Belt and Storstrømmen from the onset of the Atlantic period (Astrup, 2018; Binder, 2019). However, the fishbone material from the contemporary Kongemose site Argusgrunden (Figure 1), located 13 km west of Orehoved Sejlrende, is also comprised mainly of freshwater fish (Møhl, 1987), indicating that during the Villingebæk phase, Storstrømmen was still a freshwater system with little or no marine influence.

Table 3

Species determination of animal bones from Orehoved Sejlrende, Number of Individual Specimens (NISP) (Brodersen, 2019; Magnussen, 2019b).

Mammals species NISP
Wolf (Canis lupus) 1
Wolf/dog (Canis lupus/Canis familiaris) 5
Wild cat (Felis silvestris) 2
European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) 4
Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) 4
Seal (Phoca sp.) 5
Otter (Lutra lutra) 5
Fox (Vulpes vulpes) 6
European water vole (Arvicola amphibius) 8
Dog (Canis familiaris) 13
Beaver (Castor fiber) 11
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) 172
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) 259
Red deer (Cervus elaphus) 406
Wild boar/Red deer (Sus scrofa) 13
Mammal, total NISP 914
Mammal, unidentifiable species 2,912
Mammal, total 3,826
Birds species NISP
Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 1
Red or Black-throated diver (Gavia stellate/arcitica) 1
Shelduck (Tardorna sp.) 1
Common eider (Somateria mollissima) 1
Goose (Branta sp.) 1
Teal (Anas crecca) 1
Duck (Anas sp.) 1
White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) 1
Rough-legged buzzard ( Buteo lagopus ) 1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Diving duck (Aythya sp.) 3
Garganey (Anas querquedula) 4
Crane (Grus grus) 4
Swan (Cygnus sp.) 7
Mute swan (Cygnus olor) 3
Whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) 3
Whooper swan/Mute swan (Cygnus cygnus/olor) 27
Bird, total NISP 63
Bird, unidentifiable species 47
Bird, total 110
Fish species NISP
Shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) 1
Burbot (Lota lota) 1
Garfish (Belone belone) 1
Ide (Leuciscus idus) 1
Common bream (Abramis brama) 1
Tench (Tinca tinca) 3
Roach (Rutilus rutilus) 4
Common rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) 6
Plaice/Flounder/Dab (P. platessa/P. flesus/L. limanda) 12
Cod (Gadidae) 19
Eel (Anguilla anguilla) 30
Zander (Sander lucioperca) 34
Cyprinids (Cyprinidae) 196
European perch (Perca fluviatilis) 215
Northern pike (Esox lucius) 721
Fish, total NISP 1,245
Fish, unidentifiable species 1,910
Fish, total 3,155

Two out of the three human teeth found at Orehoved Sejlrende are currently being analysed for of δ13C and δ15N (Anders Fisher, pers. com. March 10, 2021). The stable isotope values may contribute an insight to the composition of the human diet concerning, terrestrial, marine, and freshwater sources.

3.4 Kalverev, Lokalitet X

Another site from the Kongemose culture was located, at the same depth and directly across the sound, 1.7 km north of Orehoved Sejlrende. The site was originally located on an island or peninsula, and the remains of which today is the island of Masnedø Kalv (Figure 2). Gyttja layers at the Kalverev Lokalitet X site from around 5.5 m below the present sea level indicate that the site was located at the very edge of the water during its occupation. The topography of the postglacial terrain suggests that the coastline at the site was relatively straight. Today, the area is overlain by up to 4 m of marine sand and silt, so before excavating with divers, extensive amounts of sediment had to be removed with mechanical excavator. During test excavations in the area, the extent of the site was estimated to be around 8,600 m2. Only 21 m2 were finally excavated with divers, giving a relatively modest insight into the site (Figure 6). The lithic material excavated at the site consisted of 7,654 pieces of worked or charred flint. Among these were 58 oblique arrowheads, 39 of which could morphologically be ascribed to the Villingebæk phase (6150–5800 BC) and eight to the Vedbæk phase (5800–5400 BC). The lithic assemblage had a close resemblance to the material from Orehoved Sejlrende (Table 2). Likewise, the stratigraphy at the site, with a transgressional gravel layer at a depth of approximately 5–6 m, mirrors the situation at Orehoved Sejlrende. A radiocarbon date of a nutshell and charcoal from the transgressional layer (beta-499650: 5994 ± 68 cal. BC and beta-479651: 5958 ± 59 cal. BC) and a bone fragment from the underlying gyttja layer (beta-479652: 6225 ± 132 cal. BC) place the site in the Villingebæk phase (6150–5800 BC). The 779 mammal bones and bone fragments excavated at the site have not yet undergone species determination. The 474 fish bones found at the site predominantly consist of freshwater species (98%). The dominating species are cyprinids (Cyprinidae) 45%, northern pike (Esox lucius) 27%, and European perch (Perca fluviatilis) 23% (Magnussen, 2019a).

Figure 6 
                  
                     Kalverev, Lokalitet X, site plan and profile. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed. As several meters of sediment were removed with mechanical excavator prior to diver excavations, the profile only shows the one meter of sediment above moraine till that was left by the excavator.

Figure 6

Kalverev, Lokalitet X, site plan and profile. Contour lines represent the depth of the seabed. As several meters of sediment were removed with mechanical excavator prior to diver excavations, the profile only shows the one meter of sediment above moraine till that was left by the excavator.

3.5 Orenæs, Kabel 8

During test excavations, a site from the Ertebølle culture (5400–3900 BC) was found approximately 200 m north of the present coast of Falster, where the small stream Lygemose Å today has its outlet (Figure 2). The site was located only 1 m below the present sea level. The sediments in the area consisted of a complex stratigraphy of organic sediment and several layers of washed out flint material from the settlement site. Stratigraphic and archaeobotanical analyses of the sediment sequence indicate that the area was once a brackish/freshwater lake or lagoon protected from the coast by a barrier. During transgression of the area, the lake/lagoon was gradually more affected by marine intrusion, possibly by periodic flooding of the barrier (Jessen & Hald, 2018). Radiocarbon-dated oak (Quercus sp.) buds from top (beta-509394: 5110 ± 101 cal. BC) and bottom (beta-509395: 5057 ± 148 cal. BC) of the lowest organic layer that shows marine ingression indicate that the area was first transgressed by marine waters between 5100 and 5000 BC.

Because the excavation was development led, it was only possible to excavate within the narrow trench of the cable corridor. The washed-out archaeological material could be followed over a 12 m stretch along the cable route (Figure 7). No settlement surface was preserved. Apart from the material found in the lowermost layer of freshwater gyttja, most likely representing the shallow-water, near-shore refuse layer of the settlement, all archaeological material is relocated and washed out into the area from higher ground during the transgressions of the area. A total of 5,755 pieces of worked or charred flint were found within the 12 excavated square meters, and among these 38 transverse arrowheads, the majority of the Stationsvej type. Trylleskov and Ålekistebro types were also present. Organic material consisted of several sharpened stakes, some driven vertically into the seabed, a leister prong, six bone bodkins, one antler punch, the tip of a slotted bone point with residues of resins preserved within one of the grooves, 1,511 fragments of animal bones, as well as charcoal, burned hazelnut shells, and different seeds. The composition of the fishbone material is of special interest: 492 fish bones were collected during sieving, the majority from the lower, and fresh/brackish deposited, gyttja layer. Despite the deposition environment, all bones derive from saltwater species. The dominating species is cod (Gadidae) 91%, but plaice/flounder/dab (P. platessa/P. flesus/L. limanda) and turbot/brill (Psetta maxima/Scophthalmus rhombus), garfish (Belone belone), and herring (Clupea harengus) were also present (Magnussen, 2018).

Figure 7 
                  
                     Orenæs, Kabel 8, site plan and profile.

Figure 7

Orenæs, Kabel 8, site plan and profile.

4 Further Research

The flint material from the two Kongemose sites, Orehoved Sejlrende and Kalverev Lokalitet X, calls for further study. Relatively few sites of the period have so far been published and the period is defined on the basis of only few fully analysed materials (Sørensen, 2017).

Both the excavated sites date to the Villingebæk phase (6150–5800 BC) with a minor representation from the Vedbæk phase (5800–5400 BC) and the large amount of cores, blades, and core tools can contribute to technological studies of blade and core tool production within these phases of the Kongemose culture (Baez-Westerberg & Johansen, in prep).

The preservation of organic material and thus the environmental record at the two excavated Kongemose sites are promising. A particular question is the marked rise in the sea level during this period and the resulting shift from a freshwater environment to a brackish and marine environment in the area. The recent excavations in Storstrømmen in combination with supplemental data from previous excavations in the area, as well as geotechnical cores, have provided a number of radiocarbon-dated sea-level indication points that can be used for the composition of a local sea-level curve for the area (Binder, 2019). This in turn can be used to reconstruct the changing landscape and clarify the location and development of settlements. Furthermore, the bone and especially the fishbone material from the two Kongemose sites Orehoved Sejlrende and Kalverev, Lokalitet X and the Ertebølle site Orenæs, Kabel 8, contribute data concerning the aquatic environment of the area.

5 Conclusion

It has been a challenge to assess which aims and methods should be implemented for the development-led projects described earlier. Taking into consideration the limited accessibility to parts of the former, and now submerged, land surface, the practicalities concerning test excavation methodology became one of the primary deciding factors. The result was a relatively untested and very intrusive test excavation method. The method also proved very effective in locating sites. During test excavations, seven new Mesolithic sites spanning the entire Mesolithic period were located. The test excavations were targeted at areas, which during a lower sea level were (1) topographically favourable for fishing with stationary fishing structures and (2) topographically favourable for preservation of organic material. The two criteria often co-exist. Subsequent excavations at two Kongemose sites have resulted in substantial artefact material and environmental information on the Kongemose culture in the area.


Special Issue published in cooperation with Meso'2020 – Tenth International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe, edited by Thomas Perrin, Benjamin Marquebielle, Sylvie Philibert, and Nicolas Valdeyron


Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the developers; the Danish Road Directorate, Energinet, and the Harbour of Vordingborg for smooth and fruitful co-operation, making the archaeological investigations a success. Also, thanks to Anders Fischer and Torben Malm from the Danish Heritage Agency, for counselling during the projects and to Mikkel Sørensen for comments on the manuscript.

  1. Funding information: All fieldwork and postprocessing of fieldwork, until the writing of the excavation report is funded by the developers; the Danish Road Directorate, Energinet and the Harbour of Vordingborg.

  2. Author contributions: MJ performed the deck-based assessment and led the fieldwork. MJ, KF, and AGB are postprocessing the fieldwork. KF prepared the manuscript with contributions from all co-authors. The authors applied the SDC approach for the sequence of authors.

  3. Conflict of interest: The authors state no conflict of interest.

  4. Data availability statement: The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available from The Viking Ship Museum under reasonable request.

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Received: 2021-04-22
Revised: 2022-02-06
Accepted: 2022-02-23
Published Online: 2022-04-28

© 2022 Klara Fiedler et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.