Hummervikholmen and Måløya Islands

Overarching period: Mesolithic, 15,000 - 5,500 BP
Carbon dating: 9,275 - 9,452 years old
Hummervikholmen - 58.06° North, 7.74° East
Måløya Islands - 67.81° North 14.80° East
Site location country: Norway
mtDNA haplogroups: U5
Y haplogroups: I

Stone Axe Mesolithic Axe from Norway [19]

The Mesolithic in Norway:

Norway’s northerly position meant that Mesolithic in Norway started several thousand years later than it did in the rest of Europe. The ice sheets did not entirely retreat until around 10,000 year ago, some 3,000 to 5,000 years later than they did in Central Europe [10], and the first peoples arriving in Norway date to around 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. There is a relative scarcity of sites dating from the era between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago, with only a handful of human remains attributable to the period. There are, however, a few sites that have rock art and evidence of human activity throughout the period [11]. Most sites have been found in Western Norway and correspond with finds relating to use of marine resources. Many Mesolithic sites have produced bone fish hooks that provide strong evidence of fishing in coastal areas [12].

The individuals from Hummervikholmen and Måløya Islands:

The Hummervikholmen Island site is located 24 kilometres (15 miles) from the city of Kristiansand, on the southern coast of present-day Norway. The two individuals in this sample from this site dated to between 9,275 and 9,452 years old, making them the earliest modern humans found in Norway. Hummervikholmen is a submerged site that was discovered by dredging work in the area. There is some evidence from the artifacts found that these people were seal hunters [13-14].

The island of Måløya, where our third individual was found, is located 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the village of Nordskot in the Steigen region of northern present-day Norway. The only remains of this individual were a jaw bone found in a cave on the island that was carbon-dated to between 5,950 to 5,764 years old, placing them at the more recent end of the Mesolithic. The single individual found at Måløya was sequenced from a jaw bone found in a cave on the island. There were no other artifacts found with this person [15].

While significantly different in time and location, these individuals are considered to represent a single genetic group that for Norwegian hunter-gatherers [16]. Genetic analysis has shown that there were several mutations that are thought to related to physiological adaptations to high latitude. Also found was a variant of the HERC2 gene, indicating that these individuals had blue eyes. There were two males in this sample, one from the Måløya site and the other from Hummervikholmen. Both belonged to the Y chromosome I haplogroup which is a very ancient lineage found in Europe and West Asia, particularly towards the Caucuses. It is thought to have its origins in the European Paleolithic [17]. All individuals, including a female from Hummervikholmen belonged to the U5 mitochondrial haplogroup, which was the most common haplogroup among European hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and still exists in Europe today although at lower frequencies due to the genetic contribution of incoming European farmers [18].