The First Inhabitants in Scandinavia


Grauballe Man, one of th first inhabitants in Scandinavia, was discovered in a Danish peat bog in 1952. The victim, in his mid-30s, had eaten a meal of wheat porridge before his throat was slashed and his body dumped. Estimated time of death: 300 BC.

Some of the earliest arrival in this re-sculptured land brought with them tame dogs, knew how to make leather boats, arrows, harpoons and spears. Not much else known about them, so a case has been made for recognizing the nomadic Sami as Scandinavia’s quasi-aboriginals.

Other scholar, the Finnish M. A. Castren, suggested that they and anyone else speaking a Finno-Urgic language, which includes Hungarians, Estonians and the Sami, hailed from Outer Mongolia and could therefore claim kinship with the likes of Genghis Khan.

An increasing number of Finns see themselves as indigenous Baltic folk who drifted into their present location between the Bronze Age and the start of the great European migration in the 5th century AD.

During the Scandinavian Neolithic periods, hunter-gatherer ways of life gave way over time to agriculture.

The origin of today’s Swedes, Norwegians and Danes are also something of a mystery. In the Mesolithic era, shifting tribes of hunter-gatherers lived along the coasts of Southern Scandinavia, making seasonal trips inland to hunt boar and deer in the rich forests that covered the region at that time.

These inhabitants consisted one of the last major hunter-gatherer complexes in Stone Age Europe, and it was always assumed that they evolved into today’s Scandinavians.

However, in 2009 genetics research conducted at Uppsala University discovered that these hunter-gatherers are not related to modern Scandinavians – in fact, they seem to have vanished entirely from the region around 4,000 years ago.

“The hunter-gatherers who inhabited Scandinavia more than 4,000 years ago had a different gene pool than ours,” explains Anders Götherström of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University, who headed the project together with Eske Willerslev of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

The theory now is that new influx of people must have settled at the end of the Stone Age – but who they were, nobody knows.

Feature image (on top) copyright Shutterstock