Contrasting patterns of prehistoric human diet and subsistence in northernmost Europe

Mirva Pääkkönen*, Auli Bläuer, Bjornar Olsen, Richard P. Evershed, Henrik Asplund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
351 Downloads (Pure)


Current archaeological evidence indicates the transition from hunting-fishing-gathering to agriculture in Northern Europe was a gradual process. This transition was especially complex in the prehistoric North Fennoscandian landscape where the high latitude posed a challenge to both domestic animal breeding and cereal cultivation. The conditions varied, the coastal dwellers had access to rich marine resources and enjoyed a milder climate due to the Gulf Stream, while those living in the inland Boreal forest zone faced longer and colder winters and less diversity in animal and plant resources. Thus, the coastal area provided more favourable conditions for early agriculture compared to those found inland. Interestingly, a cultural differentiation between these areas is archaeologically visible from the late 2nd millennium BC onwards. This is most clearly seen in regionally distinct pottery styles, offering unique opportunities to probe diet and subsistence through the organic residues preserved in ceramic vessels. Herein, we integrate the lipid biomarker, compound-specific stable carbon isotopes (δ13C), and zooarchaeological evidence to reveal culturally distinct human diets and subsistence patterns. In northern Norway, some of the coastal people adopted dairying as part of their subsistence strategy, while the inhabitants of the interior, in common with northern Finland, continued their hunter-gatherer-fisher lifestyles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1148
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2018


  • Stable isotope analysis
  • Analytical chemistry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Contrasting patterns of prehistoric human diet and subsistence in northernmost Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this