lunes, 17 de noviembre de 2014

5,000 year-old footprints in the sand capture a moment in time (Denmark)

At the excavations for the future Fehmarn Belt Fixed link, archaeologists from Museum Lolland-Falster in Denmark have discovered 5,000 year-old footprints. The human footprints are clustered around a several metres long system of fixed gillnets on stakes, which in prehistory would have stood off the beach
“This is really quite extraordinary, finding human footprints. Normally, we find their rubbish in the form of tools and pottery, but here, we suddenly have a completely different type of traces from the past. We are familiar with animal footprints, but to the best of my knowledge, we have never come across human footprints in Danish Stone Age archaeology before,” says Terje Stafseth, archaeologist at the museum.

A coastal landscape

Up until the end of the 1800s, when land reclamation was carried out on Lolland, the area where the permanent Fehmarn Belt link is to be established contained fjords and streams, stretching into the coastal landscape. For thousands of years, the area has been under the constant influence of the sea, which has required a great adaptive capacity on the part of the local population.
Finds of fixed gillnets on stakes are clear evidence that the coast formed the setting for many activities. However, they are also evidence of the conditions that the people lived under, with the destructive forces of the sea very near. Surveys have shown that continual repairs have been carried out on the wattle of the fixed gillnets, following damage caused partly by flooding.

A moment in time

The footprints show that people were attempting to save parts of the fixed gillnets before the entire capture system was flooded and then covered in sand. There were at least two people – judging from the foot sizes – who stepped out into the swampy seabed to save whatever they could, and that subsequently, they set up the fixed gillnet on stakes some distance away. The sand from the flooding followed down into their footprints, leaving clear imprints for future archaeologists, both on the surface and at the depth where they sank in.
“The investigations have shown that the Stone Age population repeatedly repaired, and actually moved parts of the capture system in order to ensure that it always worked and that it was placed optimally in relation to the coast and currents. We are able to follow the footprints and sense the importance of the capture system, which would have been important for the coastal population to retain a livelihood and therefore worth maintaining” Terje Stafseth continues.
Finding these footprints at Rødbyhavn has suddenly made the excavations much more very personal, where direct imprints from ancient people’s activities can be associated with a concrete event – a storm destroyed a fixed gillnet on stakes, and in order to secure the survival of the population, this has had to be repaired.
The excavations in the area have not yet been completed, so Museum Lolland-Falster hopes that further investigations will reveal even more footprints.

Source: Past Horizons:

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