Interpreting Prehistoric Labor North and South of the Forager-Agricultural Frontier in Central Fennoscandia, Northern Europe

Aki Hakonen


The prehistory of Fennoscandia is characterized by a split of the north and south into what is commonly interpreted as forager and agricultural subsistence contexts. The cultural divergence between the two took place in the region over the span of 4,000 years. This article focuses on analyzing products indicative of extrasubsistence labor, which signify distinct-yet- comparable activities in the divergent regional contexts. The activities are studied by interpreting the production processes of the most common types of pertinent archaeological remnants and interpreted through two attributes: labor intensity and expertise. The combined analysis reflects the differences between the two regional material records while also indicating different logic related to the persistence of labor activities. This difference in logic is interpreted with a framework pertaining to worldview differences between subsistence production and subsistence procurement. Beginning from the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, communities in the southern context are argued to have adopted aspects of an ideology of production. These communities maintained and strengthened their labor efforts in the long term. Contrastingly, in the northern zone, several phases of the decline of labor-related activities can be discerned in the long-term prehistory when labor roles were completely reorganized or abolished. The difference may be due to an ideological separation between the two contexts concerning nonsubsistence-related work and the associated issue of social organization.

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