Early farmers in Denmark were immigrants, new study suggests

A study of flint axes and flint mines has led researchers to believe that the first farmers in Denmark were not Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, but immigrants from central Europe

A new PhD study of ancient flint axes indicates that the first farmers in Denmark were not Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, but rather immigrants from central Europe.

Lasse Sørensen, the author of the study, recently presented his findings at an international symposium arranged as part of the National Museum of Denmark’s research project, ‘Nordlige Verdener’ (Northern Worlds).

"Six thousand years ago, some agricultural hubs surfaced around southern Scandinavia and there we saw the first farmers in Scandinavia," Sørensen told science magazine Videnskab. "The people in these hubs had a different approach to the flint axe than the contemporary hunter-gatherers did. This indicates that the first Scandinavian farmers moved from the south and that it wasn’t local hunter-gatherers that got the grand idea to begin farming.”

1,000 years late
People in central Europe began farming the land and keeping animals some 7,000 years ago, while the practice didn’t enter Scandinavia until 1,000 years later. As agriculture spread, a polished flint axe, better suited to clear forest for farming, began appearing in Scandinavia.

“Agriculture is incredibly complex. There are sowing, harvest, clearing and animal conditions to consider,” Sørensen argued. “You couldn’t have failed harvests too many times while learning the skills. And the flint axes we find in Scandinavia also support the hypothesis that that Scandinavian hunter-gatherers learned from the southern immigrants.”

Mines an evidence of Michelsberg culture
Sørensen went on to explain that the early polished flint axes and the mines from where they came are a good indicator that the first farmers were immigrants from the Neolithic-age Michelsberg culture stemming from central Europe.

“The flint mines are typical for the Michelsberg culture and that suggests that people moved to Scandinavia with different ideas,” Sørensen said. “If it was just the knowledge that arrived, they probably wouldn’t have made mines to get the flint, but just collected it from the beach as they had previously done.”

Sørensen’s research indicated that the early agriculture hubs shared their knowledge to the local hunter-gatherers, who then began farming the land and keeping animals.