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 I N T R O D U C T I O N

The Way of the Waters


The "UIRALA" banner is created to signal articles that deal with the development of peoples adapted to the flooded landscape left when the world climate warmed and the glaciers melted and retreated leaving behind a land flooded with glacial meltwater. They developed a boat-oriented way of life which was very successful and which then expanded in all directions where waterways could take them. Under the "UIRALA" banner, with a multidisciplinary approach, we look at all aspects of the boat-oriented way of life that was born in the meltwater of the glaciers from about 12,000 years ago with the archeological "Maglemose" and then "Kunda" cultures

  Introduction: What is "Uirala"?

    This series of articles or web pages was started over a decade ago (2002) , for the personal study for me of a remarkable period of human history - the period at the end of the Ice Age, when the world began warmng up very rapidly. By about 10,000 years ago, the world climate was about the same as today, and the vegetation similar, and sometimes the climate was even warmer. BUT half of the glaciers that covered the northern parts of continents were still there, melting like a snowball on a summer's day, with torrents of water gushing out of them, flooding the land below them. Imagine you were humans, who spent thousands and thousands of years perfecting the hunting of large herd animals in open plains or tundras, and suddenly, in as little as half a millenium, the open grassy plains were becoming forests, and the tundras becoming marshes and bogs. While the tundras and plains tried to shift northward, in response to the cold, in Europe the forests took over the entire west, leaving only small patches of open grassy plains and meadows for the formerly large herds of horses, bison, aurochs (wild cattle). The tundras towards the north, shifted north until they came up against the wall of glacier and the tundra could not shift north any further. (If the enormous glacier was not there, then of course the tundra could have continued shifting north until it reached Lapland).  The tundras were able to shift north for a while longer, skirting the east side of the glacier and water, but almost immediately the northward shift in that northeasterly direction was blocked again. The meltwater from the glacier moved the coastline many hundreds of kilometers south. Had it not been there, then the tundra could have shifted north to its position today at the arctic coast of Russia.  Note that towards eastern Eurasia, there were no glaciers to block northward progress, and so the tundra reached its modern locations in many places in northeastern Siberia.
    Without tunda, some of the animals of the tundra, like mammoths, went extinct. Reindeer herds, which must once have overed middle Eurasia in enormous numbers (perhaps much like the bison in the plains of North America when Europeans arrived) and been followed by very successful tribes. But now, with the disappearance of the grassy plains and tundra, all those large animals depicted on the walls of caves in southern France, on which humans depended were disappearing. Humans were forced to completely change the way of life they had known for tens of thousands of years, and become peoples of forests and wetlands.  The reindeer hunters of course did not entirely disappear - Asian reindeer hunters were still able to follow reindeer into the Siberian arctic, and continue their way of life. When the glaciers were gone, and the coastlines returned to normal, there were be westward migrations along the Eurasian arctic coast, by reindeer and reindeer hunters. restoring some of the reindeer. With the glaciers over Scandinavia gone, this may be the time reindeer and reindeer hunters reached northern Norway from the east. Meanwhile towards the south, towards the drier eastern Europe where open grassy plains survived, the herds of bison, horses and wild cattle had been decimated, and the large populations of their hunters had to change their way of life too, to hunting in the more deciduous forests in central European highlands.  It was this struggle that gave rise to domesticating these animals, notably wild cattle. In order to give wild cattle, horses, and of course deer, pasture, these people initiated the burning of forests to create meadows. But the story of the domestication of the original herd animals of the Ice Age, is a different one. This one titled "Uirala" is about the adapting of humans to the flooded landscape by the development of a boat-oriented way of life, and being so successful, it expanded everywhere, almost representing a second expansion of humankind. (The first was on foot, the second one now via boats) This second expansion as you will see took them into the oceans and to other contents by around 6.000 years ago.

 Figure 1

UIRALA is depicted above - the entire region of flooded lands south of the glacier, into which boats expanded.  The boat peoples expanded not just the inland wetlands and rivers, but also the swollen seas and glacial lakes.

    Thus "Uirala" is a more or less invented word in Finnic, combining UI 'float, swim'  RA 'path, route, way' and LA 'place, location, area'.  This world of 10,000 years ago and for several millenia afterward was, towards the north, endless wetlands and thick wilderness through which it was no longer possible to travel like in the former open tundra or plains. Note that when the glaciers had melted, the lands that had once been under the kilometer of ice was not just filled with the meltwater, but also was depressed - in places many meters below current elevations. Today these areas that were originally lakes and wetlands, are far from what they are now. The land has been rebounding for 10,000 years and the water that flooded the landscape has been flowing to the sea since that time as well. The rise of the sea-level from this flow of water back to the sea, also had an impact - coastal regions originally dry became innundated. 
    It was a world of water everywhere, as the enormous slowball - the glaciers - were melting. And the first thing the former reindeer hunters had to learn, was how to simply navigate through the marshes and dense wilderness, if it was now nearly impossible to do so on foot. They developed a way of life that involved moving around in dugout boats.

Dramatic change from about 12,000 BP

Figure 2

this animated map shows the region where the Maglemose and Kunda Cultures emerged when the glaciers melted and flooded the lands.


     If you read archeological texts, you will generally find those texts simply describe how the original hunters of large herd animals in the open parklike steppes of Eurasia during the Ice Age very suddenly had to bring that activity to an end and revert to a mixed hunting-gathering economy.
    The following is excerpted from two pages of the famous university-level book by Grahame Clarke.

 ...reindeer hunters of western and northern Europe during the period between ten and fifteen thousand years ago provide a well-documented example [of narrowing down of animals pursued] Analysis of the larger game animals represented in the food-refuse of the Late-Magdalenians who sheltered in the south German cave of Petersfels for example, shows that they obtained four-fifth of their meat from reindeer. And even greater concentration can be seen on the summer hunting stations of the Hamburgian and Ahrensburgians sited on the margins of glacial tunnel-valleys in Schleswig-Holstein. In that case over 99 percent of the larger game animals were of a single species. The evidence suggests that other animals were the victims of chance encounters and that the only serious quarry was the reindeer...By attaching themselves to a herd of reindeer a group of hunters would not only possess themselves if a walking larder, comparable up to a point with a domesticated herd, but also a source of many of the most important raw materials they needed, skins for clothing and tents, antler and sinew for hunting gear........quite suddenly, in the course of a few generations the ecological setting changed: as Late-glacial gave  way to Post-glacial climate and glaciers entered on their final retreat, forests encroached rapidly on the open grazing grounds formerly occupied by reindeer.....the hunting people of the North European Plain reacted in part  by reverting to a mixed hunting economy... but in part by developing special skills in fishing and winning food from the seashore. [Clarke, World Prehistory, pp73-74]

"In the course of a few generations"!  It seems archeologists do not stress it enough how dramatic this change was on humans. Imagine your people have been hunting a large herd animal in either the grassy steppes, or further north the tundra, and been doing so now for thousands of years throughout the Ice Age. 
    Since humans, just like our ape relatives, are territorial about that on which we depend, each tribe of the large animal hunters would have identified a particular herd as their property, and followed it generation after generation through the thousands of years of the Ice Age, knowing pretty much every individual.
    And now suddenly these animals are deprived of their habitat. Towards the south, the grassy plains originally filled with horses, bison, and auroches (ancestors of cattle), give way to forests, and towards the north, the reindeer tundra permafrost thaws turning the land into bogs, and flooded with the water from the melting glaciers towards the north.  The original large animals on which humankind was dependent for millenia through the Ice Age, are in peril. But, since the changes take several generations, there is room for the animals and their hunter-owners to shift in directions where the open country or hard tundra still remain. The traditional hunting of large animals in open plains can continue for a while longer. Until the climate warming accelerates, tundra disappearing and open plains becoming densely forested.


    Interior regions towards southeast Europe - far from the prevailing winds that bring rain, will be drier. There will be steppes north of the Black Sea, as there is now. Those hunter tribes who followed, and 'owned' the herds of the open plains animals will witness the tragedy and take measures to help their animals.  For horses, bison, or auroch herds, who needed open grassy lands, their hunter-owners could deliberately put forests on fire, and soon grassy meadows suitable especially for auroches would spring up. Bison and horses desire quite open spaces, so the auroch was the ideal animal to be helped with slash and burn.  Archeologists who come across slash-and-burn evidence in continental Europe will assume it was done for agriculture. However, bear in mind that humans were primarily meat-eaters through the Ice Age, and they would have been more interested in helping the large meat sources, than to plant crops. At that time forests were lush, and there was no lack of wild edible plants. No - the slash-and-burn was primarily for creating open lands for the large animals, if not for aurochs that the hunters considered their property,. then for the completely wild animals like deer. In North America's northeast, the Iroquoian tribes, who practiced farming of maize, squash, etc. moved their village every thirty years (to allow lands to recover fertility) and carried out slash-and-burn at their new location. They certainly wanted to also attract deer and other wild animals to the cleared regions to provide meat.  Thus even after crop farming developed, the role of creating meadows for hooved large animals was also behind the slash and burn activity. As a result of the slash and burn activity, the original forested areas became savannah. For example, in the 17th century when French explorer Champlain travelled into the regions around Rice Lake north of Lake Ontario, he commented that it looked like a European countryside that had previously been inhabited. (It had. The Huron/Wendat branch of the Iroquoian farmers had lived there in the 16th century, and had abandoned the area when attacked by Iroquoians from the south side of Lake Ontario.  There is much to be learned about early Europe from studying the behaviour of Iroquoian farmers, and Algonquian nomadic boat-using hunter-gatherers, who were analogous to continental Europe up to around 5,000 years ago, and longer in more remote locations.
    Today scholars make a big deal out of the 'invention of agriculture', but I think it is a small step from deliberately burning forests to produce grazing land for the aurochs, to actually planting fodder in the ashes. It's my belief that farming for human consumption was never deliberately invented. It was a byproduct of helping cattle survive by producing grass for them. Someone then discovered humans could eat the seeds and give the rest to the cattle.  Assisting cattle to retain grazing meadows could and probably did occur independently everywhere that aurochs where threatened by forests closing in on them, and humans taking steps to help them,  by burning large areas of forest. Horses were domesticated too, but that may not have been properly achieved until a later time. Bison seem never to have been domesticated, perhaps from the domestication of aurochs being easier.
    The above, then, is the story of the development of farming. My theory, to summarize, is that humans were most accustomed to eating meat of large animals of open plains, and their largest concern was to help those animals survive, and one action was to create meadows via slash and burn.  Where did agriculture develop, then. The narrative we often hear is that agriculture developed in Asia Minor. But paleoclimatology also says that during the Ice Age, Asia Minor was  a wonderful setting. What happened there was that as the world climate warmed, it dried up, and instead of excess wetness such as in continental Europe (needing slash and burn to create meadows), in Asia Minor, the challenge was to bring back at least the vegetation used by the animals. The solution was of course to use irrigation. But I believe originally the purpose was the same - to help the large meat animals survive, namely cattle. Grasses were promoted by irrigation to provide fodder to the cattle. Humans discovered that they could eat the grains and give the cattle the rest. Thus in that instance too, agriculture originally developed as a byproduct of the primary objective of helping the animals they consumed for food. This helping meant domestication. As archeology of very ancient sites in Anatolia show, there was a culture that both worshipped the bull and a mother goddess. Mother goddess figurines have been found dating to the Ice Age, in the "Gravettian Culture". The fact that they worshipped the mother goddess, meant they understood reproduction. It follows that descendants of the Gravettian Culture not only helped their cattle herds with providing them with meadows, but also to regulate their browsing. That meant 'harvesting' only the excess males, and leaving the females with only the most promising bull. And from that came the worshipping of the bull. Since the Gravettian Culture extended from southeast Europe in an arc north of the Alps, all the way to the Iberian Peninsula, it is not surprising that the bull cult also became prominent in the Iberian Peninsula. This culture may have migrated by sea, since it also appeared in Crete.
    My point is that in the evolution of humankind out of the Ice Age, farming began with helping the large open plains animals to survive during the time forests were eating up the open plains just north of the Alps, or Asia Minor was becoming dry desert.
    But our central interest in this article is in the tundra, its reindeer, its reindeer hunters and the disappearance of tundra. Here the problem was not forests devouring open grassy plains, but of tundra turning into wetlands and impassible lowland wilderness. It required a quite different response than artificially creating habitat. (Indeed,  whereas it is possible to create meadows by burning down forests from time to time, it is impossible to create tundra artificially. In this case humans had to transform themselves completely from a pedestrian hunter of plains herds, to a boat using hunter in dense wilderness.


    Then there were the reindeer.  As the climate warmed, the direction the reindeer herds wanted to go was northward, to stay within their ideal habitat - the tundra with its reindeer moss.
     If the reindeer herds were originally around Germany, and in a few generations the tundra turned into marshy bogs, where could the herds go? If they went north from there, they came up against the enormous wall of the glacier.
    By that time, the world climate was now the same as it is today, and yet the enormous glacier that covered half of Europe was only half melted. The glacier was for many of the subsequent millenia like a huge snowball in the summertime. Just melting and pouring water out of it.
    The lands freed from glacier cover - exending almost to the Alps, were both depressed from the weight of the glaciers, and flooded by the meltwater. The sea levels were low and it would take some millenia for the meltwater to flow to the sea and the sea level to rise. And then when the sea level rose the coastal areas were flooded by the sea rise. The original reindeer hunters could not win.
     It would take many millenia for the land to rebound to where it is today. Today, the regions around the Baltic, and south in the Oder and Vistula water systems, do not seem so bad today, because the land has been rising for some 10,000 years. .
    As the climate warmed from around 12,000 years ago, there was a gradual warming that resulted in tundra shifting northward gradually from their original location at the latitude of central Europe.  But as time passed, the warming accelerated. This is because as more ice and snow cover is freed, the dark of the earth and sea absorbs more of the sun's rays instead of reflecting it back into space from the white of the snow and ice of the glaciers. According to paleoclimatology, the climate was about the same as today, and then even warmer in the later Holocene period, even as the glacier in the north still covered the entire Scadinavian Peninsula and northern Russia's coast. The difference between than and today was that back then, the sea level was low, and glacier meltwater was creating rushing rives and wetlands to the south of the glaciers.
     Note in the map of Figure 1, the outline of today's coast through the glacier, I have made a little transparent. That means, although today there may be some tundra right along the arctic coast the glacial seas roughly shown south of the glaciers, in effect situated the coast hundreds of kilometers south. Unless there was some way reindeer could find refuge in the mountains at the north end of the Ural Mountains, or that there was a passage to the Kola Peninsula, there was absolutely no terrain left for the reindeer herds. (The same was true of the mammoths. Mammoths could only survive for a while in the little remaining tundra on the arctic coast of northeast Siberia east of the Lena River.)
    Unlike the former hunters of the grassy plains, who could adapt by helping their herds and domesticating them, the reindeer hunters could do nothing (unless some hunters in mountains took intiatives to domesticate reindeer, by which they could help reindeer to useful wild pastures, and hunt only males.)
     In the Estonian language, the word used for the moose (in British English the "elk") is from the same word that in Finnish means 'reindeer'. It seems to suggest that the first reaction of the reindeer hunters to the loss of reindeer, was to turn to hunting the moose. The moose is ideally suited for the marshy wilderness. It can swim ten miles, and can even browse on aquatic plants, while being completely submerged for several minutes, It can close its nostrils during that time. The only problem with hunting moose was that it did not form herds, and could not be easily accessed, since it lived in wetlands and dense wilderness. The development of a way to get through dense wet wilderness was also needed.


     Archeological discoveries in the last century has identified the conversion to the boat-using hunter-gatherers in the "Maglemose Culture".
    The Maglemose Culture  (c 11000 – 8000 Before Present) probably began with great difficulty as the reindeer hunters had over many generations developed a successful way of life with reindeer, and now had to find a new way of life over many generations that would serve them well. My theory is that the Maglemose culture perfected a way of life that used water as highways, solving the problem of travelling through a swampy wilderness, and at the same time providing access to the bounty of water plants and animals that were springing forth in the warming environment released from the glaciers. This new way of life produce dramatic population growth that caused breakaway groups every few generations, who took their canoes into the unknown and uninhabited wilderness, following the major coasts and rivers, to establish new tribes in new regions.
    This suggests that those boat peoples who were descended from the reindeer hunters became carriers of their haplogroups.  Investigations have found that the N-haplogroup originated in Asia. Since the Samoyedic reindeer people who have the N -haplogroup, are located at the Tamyr Peninsula in Asia, this is to be expected. But how did some N-haplogroups end up in Fennoscandia, the source of these boat people. Did the Maglemose culture inherit the N-haplogroup from their reindeer hunter ancestors, thought to be the Ahrensburgian Culture (13th to 12th millenia Before Present); and that it was since displaced by carriers of R1a? What is the story?
     The story is clearer for the related Kunda Culture .(10,000 - 7,000 Before Present). The "Kunda culture" archeologists believe, arose from the Swiderian Culture. (13,000  – 10200)  Before Present) in the region now Poland. 
    The following map shows the cultures. I propose that the original expansion was via rivers and marshes, through lowland regions, but after the Kunda Culture began hunting reals and whales in the sea, a seagoing version of the boat people developed. The seagoing boat peoples will be discussed separately in the third article, after first discussing the marshland boat peoples. The following map also shows, with orange arrows possible or likely locations where reindeer found a refuge during this overly warm period.

  Figure 3

   The map depicts Eurasia about 10,000 years ago - the beginning of the transformtion, when the boat-oriented way of life was brand new, and it was able to expand everywhere boats could go, but humans on foot had avoided, with no resistance from anyone already there. The yellow arrows indicate the expansions of the original "Maglemose" culture during a time when the climate was as today or warmer, and yet the glaciers were still only half their original size. Note that in the expansion of boat peoples, they would follow rivers and wetlands. We cannot show boat peoples in the mountainous parts of Europe. That is very important to interpreting what archeology and population genetics finds. The blue indicates the descendants of the "Kunda" culture that took an interest in the sea and their descendants expanded into places with sea life like seals and whales. When the glacier allowed a gap at the Kola Peninsula and some ice-free coast, the seahunting peoples would have moved to arctic Norway and further.  The dark orange arrows suggest a few locations where reindeer, at least small numbers, would have found refuge, if not in actual tundra, then in high elevations of northern mountains that had the environment and food reindeer needed

The Evolution and Expansion of Boat Peoples

     Humanity has mostly been interested in scholarly explorations of the wanderings of pedestrial humans during and just after the last Ice Age, before about 10,000 years ago. From archeology comes the story of early hunters following the mammoths, crossing a land bridge from Asia into North America and down an ice-free corridor around 10,000 years ago. From archeology too are theories about an even earlier mysterious coastal migration from Asia and down the Pacific coast of North America.  From population genetics comes the story of migrations out of Africa, from an original "mitochrondrial Eve" and  y-chromosome Adam, based on comparing similar DNA features in different parts of the world that indicate the descent of mtDNA along female lineage and y-chromosome DNA along male lineage. With further paleoanthropological work, it is now believed that before the expansion of humanity, we lived along the coast of southern Africa, an ideal refuge from dramatic climatic changes elsewhere in the world.
    It is therefore the general belief today that humans expanded from Africa throughout the world, reaching North America around 10,000 years ago, and that no further migrations of relevance occurred since then. But this is to be questioned. There is also the migrations by water that went where humans travelling on land could not go.

The World in the Ice AgeThe world in the Ice Age.
It was in this world that humans spread on foot, until they had reached all continents by 10,000 years ago This is what we tend to study exclusively in school.

    Meanwhile archeologists have studied the period after the Ice Age, and  prehistoric peoples presence after 10,000 years ago, such as the reindeer hunters in the North European Plain, who when finding themselves in  rapidly warming climate, had to change their way of life or follow reindeer herds heading north where the land and climate was still cold and barren.  But there has been accumulating evidence of long distance migrations by sea as well. The Arctic seas of North America recieved people who almost certainly arrived by sea from across the Altantic before 3000BC (before 5000 years from present.) On the Pacific coasts archeologists find coasts that were originally uninhabited and then a coastal culture arrived about this time as well.  On the European side of the Atlantic rock carvings on the arctic coast of Norway showing images of skin boats date to about the same time. There was a great amount of developments with boats about 6,000-5,000 years ago.


    SInce today everyone can get into a boat and go fishing, it is a popular notion that humans could make and use boats instantly whenever they wished.  This is naive. Today the culture of boats is already established. We no longer have to develop that culture.
     In the beginning, who even knew how to make a boat? If one needed to cross water, one rode a log or made a raft.  I offer the theory that originally, like apes, we simply straddled logs to cross rivers, and the more we did it, the more we thought of ways to keep our legs dry, and the logs acquired cavities. The next step was to make the dugout log lighter and more streamlined for easier handling.
    Yes, it is clear that humans were always able to make bridges and rafts to cross rivers and bodies of water when needed.  They could always straggle a log or bind logs together to form a raft, or even ride a natural raft of debris.  This is something even apes are capable of doing.  We should not be surprised for example that humans had to cross a body of water to reach Australia. The real question was whether the raft or log used was a one-time contraption, or if there was a seagoing way of life. Likely it was a one-time crossing on some contrived raft since there is no evidence of a boat-using culture having been sustained.
    Who can blame humans for remaining land-based hunters if they did not have to go out on the water? We are not dolphins.  Humans evolved on land, and are most comfortable on solid ground in dry air, instead of bouncing around in waves, getting wet, and hunting water creatures.  If it is possible to remain on the land, humans will do so.
    Thus the debate is not about ocassionally going out onto the water when necessary, but about developing an entire way of life in which travelling in boats was a necessary everyday activity, was  only way hunters could make journeys longer than short walks around their campsites on dry islands.  Such a development required environmental pressures that simply made it impossible to travel by land.
    Once a new way of life that includes a practice unnatural to humans, it is easily adopted by others. In the beginning, we do not even know what a boat looks like or how it is beneficial, and other peoples will have no interest in it; but once the culture has matured, once the design of the boats and their use are clear, once the benefits of their use are obvious, then any other people can adopt it by simply copying.  Today if we want a boat to go fishing, everything is done - we simply follow the instructions.
   Nonetheless, it is certainly that boat use could have developed elsewhere that it was necessary, such as the annual flooding of the Nile - did reed boats develop independently there? It is also possible to develop a seagoing boat based on the concept of the raft. It could have developed on the Atlantic coast where there was a lack of really large trees for making a seagoing dugout, but enough smaller trees for raft construction.  European rock carvings depict a kind of boat that appears to be based on using large streamlined logs to give buoyancy, and then building a platform above it so that these logs actually remained underwater and stable, instead of bounding with the surface, while lifting the crew well above the splashing waves.  Such a streamlined raft concept boat would have been very heavy, and usable only for long distance journeys with a large crew of oarsmen  to get up the momentum and to steer.  Such a boat could have travelled the Atlantic coast of Europe during the era of dugouts, and before the introduction of the light seagoing skin boat from arctic Norway. The 'streamlined raft' approach was good only for large crews in long distance ocean journeys, but unmanagable for short uses needing maneuvering. Because of this limitation, they did not develop as universally as the boat made of ribs and skin - the skin later becoming wooden planks and most recently steel.


    The story of how the dramatic change in climate lead to a new way of life using boats, is an elaborate one. Boat use turned out not just to be a way to travel around in a wet landscape, but it introduced, for the first time, a way of travelling also through densely forested areas that may not have been marshy, but were still dense and impassable on foot - but the forests had to be on lower lands and contained navigable rivers. This made it advantageous to peoples who wished to inhabit lowland forested areas: not just wetlands. Another unexpected benefit was that where there were waterways, it was now possible to travel some five times faster too. This allowed seasonally nomadic hunter-gatherers to cover much larger hunting areas than even when on foot in open plains.This is clear when we imagine a man walking on open ground beside a river, and imagining a canoe travelling past that man. If we are dealing with forested areas where the pedestrian did not even have flat open ground, the difference in speed was even greater. Imagine for example hunters without boats, such as in central Europe highlands, where there were no rivers. The hunters there could barely move at all, compared to the great distances the boat peoples in the lowlands of the Rhine, Oder, and Vistula River valleys were able to cover in a year.  When we think  it through, we realize that one of the reasons farming developed in the higher lands of central Europe was because the people there could not travel enough to be able to successfully hunt the deer and other animals there. It is easy to see how  slash-and-burn activities would have developed there, to open up the forests and attract and support more deer, and that when ideas arrived regarding deliberately growing crops came along, by hearsay or immigrants from the southeast, it was easy for even the hunter-gatherers there, to easily enter the settled, farming way of life.  In the north the pressures were not as great, and hunter-gatherers may have adopted only some innovations from the south that could co-exist with continued hunting-gathering. In the further north, farming was not even possible dure to the cold climate, and the original boat-using hunter-gatherer culture continued, up until relatively recent history.
    But the use of boats in wetlands not only allowed human success in lowland forests, but also in the sea. The large harpoons of the Kunda Culture, and the location of sites on prehistoric islands, suggests the Kunda Culture represented the Maglemose Culture proceeding into the sea.  While it is unnatural enough for humans to go out on rivers and lakes fore extended periods, it was even more unnatural - and scarely - to go out into the sea, especially into high waves out of sight of the short. But once the dugout boats existed, it was possible to create large seagoing dugout containing a number of men, a team of hunters, to ambush seals and other large aquatic animals. When the seagoing boats reached the arctic, and there were no large trees for seagoing dugouts, the people invented the skin boat.  The illustrations below show a descendant of the Maglemose small boat among the Hanti (Khanty, Ostyaks) of the Ob River. It is small because trees in northern Asia are small.  But the rock carving from arctic Norway, reveal that seagoing people went to arctic Norway and brought not just the traditional one-person dugout (top) but also the skin boat with high prow, with the head of the animal from which the skin came on the prow - the moose. More detailed discussion of the expansion of seagoing peoples will be presented in other articles.

Figure 4,5


Khanti Skin Boat

Dugout canoes still used by the Hanti (Khanty,Ostyaks) of the Ob River today. These dugouts are limited in size to the largest trees that can be found in the north, and ridden like open kayaks, and precedents to kayaks.

soroya rock carving

A rock carving from the arctic coast of Norway depicting both a one-man dugout, and a skin boat with a moosehead prow capable of holding several men and dealing with the high waves of the sea

    A final consequence of the development of the boat-using culture in the Maglemose Culture around 10.000 years ago, is that it created the basis for successful large scale trade.  I mentioned above how central European hunters, and then farmers, could not travel very far - maybe no more than 100km per year - whereas boat-peoples could use waterways to travel some 1000 km or more per year (Best example, the hunters who travelled annually between Lake Onega and arctic Norway a distance of 1500-2000km (More discussion in a later article)). This large contrast between the immobility of settled peoples in the uplands of Europe, compared to the high mobility of the boat peoples, created a situation that allowed some boat peoples to develop into professional traders/shippers. The settlement-bound peoples were very receptive to such trader peoples arriving at their doorsteps, to offer exotic goods obtained in the civilizations of the Mediterranean and Asia Minor.


    In the article about expansion into the seas, there is much discussion about skin boats, but the above illustrations show that knowledge of making dugouts did not die even among peoples who made skin boats for use on the oceans. . (It was not simply a matter of cutting a hole in a log, but a skill passed down fhrough the generations of how to make the hull thin and streamlined, meaning not any culture could achieve good ones just by observing one.)
    The following illustration shows a very large dugout boat, probably ultimately from the Kunda Culture large dugout tradition, that is shown on a rock carving at Shishkino on the Lena River not far from Lake Baikal. If you look at the map of Figure 3. you will see how explorers in such boats could have reached the area by river at an early time or later.
Figure 6

      Lena River rock art showing large dugouts, indicative of occasional long journeys.

     These carvings (I guess enhanced  in chalk by archeologists) show well made large dugouts. Another image shows six men. The east Baltic seagoing dugout tradition had places for three pairs of rowers, and one helmsman with a steering oar.  What is interesting about these images is the headdresses. Since all the men in the boats have them, it is not a status or ceremonial headdress, but utilitarian. What I think is shown, is that these men were moose hunters, and they made headgear out of moose's heads, with ears attached. The clothing may have looked much like those pyjamas with ears made for children sometimes.

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author: A.Paabo, Box 478, Apsley, Ont., Canada


2017 (c) A. Pääbo.