Under the Baltic Sea, an Incredible Stone Age Find

Thanks to 'gyttja,' even rope has been preserved

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 24, 2014 8:18 AM CST

(Newser) – Some 52 feet below the surface of the Baltic Sea sits what the media is calling "Sweden's Atlantis"—though that is just a bit of an overstatement. While it's not a lost island, or even a lost village, it's a site that holds "one-of-a-kind" 11,000-year-old relics. Project head Björn Nilsson explains that what he and his fellow divers have found isn't an actual village, per se, because the Stone Age-era people who once used the found items were nomadic. But it could be "maybe one of the oldest settlements from the first more permanent sites in Scania and in Sweden full stop," just a temporary one at that, he told The Local last month.

A press release from Nilsson's Södertörn University explains that between 11,000 to 9,000 years ago, the forested landscape would have slowly evolved into a lagoon and then part of the Baltic Sea, "and all the tree and bone pieces are preserved in it," says Nilsson. As the Local reports, it's believed the items were discarded in the water (Discovery News terms the site "some sort of dump"). And the preservation that followed, Nilsson says, is "world-class." What his team has uncovered so far during its planned three-year excavation effort at the bay at Hanö: animal horns, tools, ropes, and a possible harpoon carved from bone. As for the incredible preservation of items like rope, the archaeologists have gyttja sediment to thank: It forms as peat starts to decay, and has resulted in low oxygen levels. (Previous dives in the area surfaced another remarkable find.)

An image of the Baltic Sea.
An image of the Baltic Sea.   (AP Photo/dpa, Bernd Wuestneck)
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