Ancient Mediterraneans in Scandinavia; Bronze Age Trade

Bronze was imported to Scandinavia from the East Mediterranean. This trading started about 1750 BC. At just the same time amber from the Baltic started to appear in Mycenaean and Minoan graves. This gives evidence of active trading between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. The sudden appearance of picture of large ships cut into bedrock surfaces and blocks at about the same time suggests that this trading took place via visitors arriving by ships. The size of the ships seems to preclude a stepwise transfer via the river systems between the Black Sea and the Baltic, but rather a travel over the Atlantic Sea. This calls for sea-worthy ships and knowledge in geography. In the Bronze Age, only the Mycenaean, Minoan and Phoenician cultures had such ships and such skill. Reaching this far north by 1750 BC in ships following the Atlantic coast of Europe implies that those people may as well have reached much further to the south and the west than previously assumed.

Travelling along rivers and multiple river systems was one way of connecting people living far apart in the past. Another way was travelling by ships overseas. This calls for sea-worthy ships and knowledge in geography. In the Bronze Age, only the Mycenaean, Minoan and Phoenician cultures had such ships and such skill.

In the Aegean and Near East, the Bronze Age began 3300-3000 years BC. For the production of bronze, both cupper and tin were needed. There were a lot of cupper to be found in the East Mediterranean region, not least on Cyprus. However, there was a shortage of tin. Therefore, tin or rather cassiterite ore had to be imported. Cassiterite
ore was to be found in Great Britain, northwestern Iberia and southwest France. In Great Britain, the Bronze Age began around 2100 BC. This corresponds well with the proposed onset of tin exploitation in Cornwall (Penhallurick, 1986; Haustein et al., 2010). Trading abroad is likely to have commenced at the same time. Tin from Cornwall has been identified in Mycenaean-Minoan bronze objects. By about 1750 years BC something happened in Southern Scandinavia.

Scandinavia and Central Europe suddenly stepped into the Bronze Age at about 1750 years BC. The bronze objects were imported from the Mediterranean area (Ling et al., 2014). At just the same time amber started to occur in masses in Mycenaean and Minoan graves. The provenience of that amber is shown to be the south Baltic coasts. This means that we have evidence of a simultaneous import/export exchange between Scandinavia and the Eastern Mediterranean region (Mörner & Lind, 2010).

At the same time, pictures of huge ships started to be carved into the bedrock and into big blocks in Scandinavia. There are thousands of such rock carvings found and recorded. Throughout the Scandinavian Bronze Age, from 1750 to 500 BC, there is an evolutionary trend of those pictures recorded, which may even serve as chronological
tool (Kaul, 2000; Ling, 2008).

The ships look like nothing known in the local or regional shipbuilding tradition. They are very similar to ships of the same age occurring in the contemporaneous cultures in the Mediterranean. Not only did these cultures have such ships, they also had an advanced knowledge of geography, the shape of the Earth and the motion of the Sun.

Therefore, it seems logical to propose an integrated interpretation, that people from the Mediterranean at about 1750 BC, in their excellent ships, reached all the way up to Scandinavia, introducing bronze tools to the region, exporting the valuable amber, and giving the local people reasons to start the new costume of creating rock-carvings of ships (Mörner & Lind, 2010, 2013).

In southeast Sweden, we are now able to identify signs and symbols of Mediterranean origin, besides, a central Sun cult and a phallus cult that seem to lead their origin from the Aegean and Near East.

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It is a well-known fact that the Sun was worshiped as a central deity in Scandinavia during the Bronze Age (Montelius, 1911; Almgren, 1927; Bröndsted, 1938). This is evident from extensive pictures in rock-carvings and ornaments on bronze objects, including the famous Sun chariot found in 1902 in the Danish peat bog at Trundholm.

In recent years, we have been able to identify the occurrence of archaeoastronomical observatories in southeast Sweden (Lind, 1996, 2004; Lind & Mörner, 2010; Mörner & Lind, 2013; Mörner, 2015). In a way, it is not at all surprising, just another logical sign of the central position of the Sun cult. We are dealing with stone monuments arranged as huge calendars recording the sunrise and sunset at Summer and Winter solstice and at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, besides the daily motions of the Sun (i.e. sundials).

The 67 m long stone ship of Ales Stones rests monumentally on the crest of a hill just at the shore at the SE-tip of Sweden. It is strictly oriented with respect to the Sun’s annual motions (Lind & Mörner, 2010; Mörner, 2015) with the sunset at Summer solstice over the stem-stone and with the sunrise at Winter solstice over the stern-stone. There is a small divergence of about 40 cm with respect to a perfect alignment. Considering the long-term cyclic changes in the Earth tilt (obliquity), this deviation is consistent with a time of erection of about 700 BC, i.e. in the late Bronze Age.

scandinavia2

Just at Ravlunda where all the amber was to be found, we have a 30 m wide stone circle termed Heimdall’s Stones (Mörner et al., 2009; Mörner & Lind, 2010). It has strict sightlines as illustrated in the figure below of Mörner et al. (2009). Today’s deviation with respect to perfect solar alignments suggests an age of about 1200-1400 BC. The individual stones are full of rock-carvings; cup marks, Sun symbols and others marks and symbols, some of which are of non-Scandinavian origin. At the north point, there is a phallus formed by three large stones. This is indicative of a phallus cult just as recorded in many rock-carvings in Sweden (Mörner & Lind, 2010)

scandinavia3

Stonehenge has a basic geometry consisting of a rectangle (combining the station stones), a circle (the Aubrey Circle) and the line of the first sunbeams at summer solstice. Beside the main form of a ship aligned in NW-SE direction, Ales Stones has a basic geometry consisting of a rectangle, a circle and the line of the first sunbeams at summer solstice. When the Stonehenge picture is superposed on that of Ales Stones, the two basic
geometric elements co-inside in details (Mörner & Lind, 2012). This cannot be a mere coincidence but must imply an active cultural exchange (i.e. travel and trading) between Britain and Scandinavia in the Bronze Age.

Also other facts indicate an active travel and trading in the Bronze Age. This is the case with “the boy with the amber necklace”, buried at Boscombe Down, 5 km SE of Stonehenge, and dated at 1550 BC (Evans et al., 2006; Evans, 2010). The isotopic composition of his milk teeth is indicative of a childhood in the Mediterranean.
The 90 amber beads in his necklace have a provenance from the south Baltic coasts. This provides evidence of long-distance migration and trading between the East Mediterranean and Britain as well as between Britain and Scandinavia (Mörner & Lind, 2010).

According to Arbman (1950), a leading Swedish archaeologist in the middle of the last century, the delicate spiral ornament on Nordic bronze objects closely remains of that occurring in Mycenae (figure below). “Aegean bronzes” are reported from Denmark (Randsborg, 1967). There are plenty of other symbols, however, that seem to lead their origin from the East Mediterranean region; i.e. the Mycenaean, Minoan and Phoenician cultures. Some of those are discussed below. The concentration to Southeast Sweden is clear and fully in line with the proposition of a Mediterranean trading station there in the Bronze Age (Nilsson, 1875; Mörner & Lind, 2008. 2010, 2013).

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The Kivik Grave, also known as the King’s Grave, is full of signs and symbols that seem to originate from the East Mediterranean (Mörner & Lind, 2010, Figure above; Lind & Mörner, 2010: p. 57).

On stone 7, there is a war chariot that has been identified (Marstrander, 1963; Kristensen, 2004) as more or less identical to those used in Mycenae and dated at around 1400 BC (Figure below). A similar war chariot is cut into the Villfarar-stone at ÖstraTommarp, 18 km to the south, erected on the top of the grave containing the bronze object with spiral ornament shown in the previous figure above with an estimated age of 1600 BC. Both pictures are indicative of a close connection between Mycenae and SE Sweden (as illustrated in our poster to the Santorini meeting in June 2010).

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There is a famous bedrock surface full of carvings from nearly the whole of the Bronze Age. There is a ship of typical Mediterranean type (Lind & Mörner, 2010: p. 44). There is also a ship sign that has been interpreted as a miniature of the Ales stone ship (Lind & Mörner, 2010: p. 88). If this is correct, it implies that Ales Stones itself must be older; i.e. from the Bronze Age just as we propose.

The Järrestad rock surface is full of carvings; ships, feet, shoes and many other symbols. There are 164 feet, pair of feet, shoes and pair of shoes. In order to undertake a proper statistical analysis, all of them were measured as to geographic position. In quite sharp and pointed gauss-curves, 86.8% were strictly aligned to the sunrise at Winter solstice, 7.6% at the sunset at the Summer solstice, and only 5.5% at other directions (Mörner,
2012).

At the rock-carving site Tanumshede, there are pictures reminding of the famous Minoan game where young men jump vaulting over a bull (Lind & Mörner, 2010: p. 31). If correctly interpreted, it lends strong support to a Minoan influence.

In1984, an ancient shipwreck was found at a depth of –44 m off the Turkish coast at Uluburun (e.g. Pulak, 1998). The ship was dated at about 1300 BC. It is a 16 m long cargo ship. At the time of wreckage, the ship carried an interesting cargo giving evidence of a wide trading (Lind & Mörner, 2010: p. 37). There were 10 tons of copper from Cyprus, 1 ton of tin of uncertain origin, jewels from Egypt, 1 ton of terebinth resin for perfume in Canaanite jars, glass from Mycenae, ceramics from Cyprus, and large quantities of amber from the South Baltic coasts.

At about 2100 BC, the Bronze Age started in Great Britain. This was either due to the opening of trading routs with the East Mediterranean cultures (Mycenaean, Minoan and Phoenician), or due to their own innovation of mixing cupper and tin.

By about 1750 BC, Scandinavia and Central Europe went into the Bronze Age. Obviously, this was a function of the establishment of active trading routs between the East Mediterranean and Scandinavia (Mörner & Lind, 2010). At the same time Baltic amber started to appear in masses in Mycenaean and Minoan graves. This trading may have gone by small cargo ships via the river systems to the Baltic or by large ships over the Atlantic, or in a combination of both routs. Trading via the river systems is the classical interpretation. Trading over the ocean offers a novel interpretation presented at the Athens meeting in 2008 (Mörner & Lind, 2008, 2010, 2013).

The sudden appearance of rock-carvings in Scandinavia at around 1750 BC depicting huge ships is tempting to explain in terms of ships from the East Mediterranean reaching Scandinavia over the Atlantic (Mörner & Lind, 2008, 2010, 2013). This seems the only way of explaining the ships seen in the rock-carvings. They look like nothing in the Northwest European ship building tradition, but are very similar to the ships from the Bronze Age in the East Mediterranean region; sometimes even “almost identical”.

The hypothesis of Atlantic voyages already in the Bronze Age may explain recent discoveries of megalithic constructions on the Azores (Rodrigues, 2015; cf. Rodrigues et al., 2015).

The ships depicted in Scandinavian rock carvings and tool ornaments seem to represent big ships used for open water travel, not for narrow river passage including pulling and carrying. Some of the depicted ships found in Sweden are so similar to others found in Greece that we have to say that they are “almost identical” (cf. Mörner & Lind, 2010). This is illustrated in the figure below for pictures of more naturalistic types (A) as well as quite schematic types (B).

scandinavia6

Bronze was imported to Scandinavia from the East Mediterranean. This trading started about 1750 BC. At just the same time amber from the Baltic started to appear in Mycenaean and Minoan graves. This gives evidence of active trading between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia.

The sudden appearance of picture of large ships cut into bedrock surfaces and erratic blocks at about the same time suggests that this trading took place via visitors arriving in ships. The size of the ships seems to preclude a stepwise transfer via the river systems between the Black Sea and the Baltic, but rather a travel over the sea (Mörner & Lind, 2010, 2013).

In Southeast Sweden we have several stone monuments that are built as archaeoastronomical calendars and sundials (Lind & Mörner, 2010). Besides, there are numerous signs and pictures that seem to lead their origin from the Mediterranean region. Therefore, we proposed that there was a Mediterranean trading station in SE Sweden in the Bronze Age.

(Source: The very informative paper “Long-Distance Travel and Trading in the Bronze Age: The East Mediterranean-Scandinavia Case“, by Nils-Axel Mörner, Bob G. Lind)

NovoScriptorium: Our studies in ancient Greek Mythology show that “Greeks” (or “Aegeans” if one prefers) -of various ancient names- had close relationships with the Northern and Central European populations since very old times. We disagree on the addition of Phoenicians to the first part of this equation, as their naval power was at its peak much later than 1,700BC, somewhere between 1200-800BC. It is rather certain that they did go North, too, but at a later date than the Myceneans or Minoans.

Research-Selection: Philaretus Homerides

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