The First Lady of Norway -
This article is the result of recent research and is published for the first time here. During the summer of 1994, Helge Bentsen, a land owner at Hummervik- holmen in southern Norway, found remains of the earliest Norwegians, in Søgne, west of Kristiansand (see Fig. 1). He was cleaning the sea bed in an inlet on the island where his cabin is located when he discovered the ske- letal fragments. The water is c. 1 meter deep in the inlet, and the sea bottom consists of a mixture of silt and sand and crushed shells. The calcife- rous condition of the sea bed had pre- served the bones rather well. The discovery of the oldest human remains in Norway is, in fact, the result of a collaboration between an observant land owner, an alert ama- teur archaeologist in the region, the local cultural monuments authorities, the Norwegian Maritime Museum and NIKU. Thanks to these parties, these remarkable finds came to light, giving us the possibility of obtaining further knowledge about the earliest people in Norway - how they looked, how they lived, and perhaps, through future research, from whence they came. In the summer of 1995, the Norwe- gian Maritime Museum (NMM) started marine archaeological investigations in the inlet, and more bones and frag- ments were found - an almost comple- tely preserved thigh bone, a somewhat damaged shin bone, more cranial frag- ments, and some teeth. Later the same summer, Helge Bentsen found a frag- ment of a frontal bone. In the summer of 1996, the NMM did not investigate, but Helge Bentsen found yet another cranial fragment - an occipital bone (neck bone). In the summer of 1997, the NMM resumed their investigation, and three more cranial fragments and a tooth were found.1 The investigations at the site are not yet completed, and will be continued in the fall of 1999. Most of the skeletal parts and frag- ments must be characterised as stray finds, since they were lying dispersed on the sea bed. Only the first skull fragment and the thigh bone were lying in marine clay. We do not have conclusive information about the origi- nal depositional context of the other bones and fragments.. THE SKELETAL REMAINS The bone fragments have been exami- ned macroscopically, and a series of measurements have been made.2 A head- and face reconstruction of one of the individuals has also been done, based on a computer tomographic (CT) scanning of the most complete skull. Anthropological analyses At least two, but perhaps as many as five individuals are represented in the extant material. The assemblage con- sists of an almost complete skull (the lower jaw – mandible - is missing): Individual 1. A frontal bone fragment represents a second individual: Indivi- dual 2. There is also an occipital bone fragment, an almost intact left femur and a damaged left tibia. In Fig. 2, the fragments are registered on schematic skeleton drawings. The extant frag- ments are marked in black. All bone fragments are from grown individuals. So far, only females have been identified. The largest skull, called Individual 1, is of a female, c. 35-40 years of age at death. The skull is of 6 niku temahefte 031 6 BERIT J. SELLEVOLD AND BIRGITTE SKAR The First Lady of Norway Fig. 1. The photo and the map show the location of the site of Hummervikholmen. Photo Arve Kjersheim.
medium breadth relative to the length, with a high upper face and rather low eye sockets.3 The lower jaw is missing. The skull is robust, just like other Scandinavian Mesolithic female skulls. The chewing apparatus had been in vigorous use, evidenced by the well developed attachment areas of the che- wing muscles. The pattern of dental attrition is of a typical “hunter-gathe- rer” type, that is, a helicoidal pattern.4 The enamel around the edges of the chewing surfaces of the teeth had been chipped, which means that the food had contained hard particles such as, for example, grit, shell fragments and the like (see Fig 4). In addition to normal functioning, the dentition had most pro- bably also been used as an auxiliary tool. There were slight to moderate defects in the enamel on several dental crowns, so-called linear enamel hypo- plasia (see Fig 5). The defects are the results of arrested enamel formation during periods of disease, malnutrition and/or famine when the individual was between two and four years old. In addition to the skull of Individual 1, the bone assemblage includes cranial fragments from one or two other indivi- duals. There is a frontal bone from a second individual (see Fig 3), and an occipital bone which may belong to this individual or to a third individual. Both in size and shape these cranial bones resemble the corresponding parts of the skull of Individual 1. It is therefore reasonable to assume that these cra- nial bones also derive from a female (or two females). On the frontal bone frag- ment, the area above the eye sockets (glabella) is almost identical in shape to that of Individual 1, and on the occipi- tal bone, the muscle attachment area of the neck muscles – the external occipi- tal protuberance — is almost identical to the corresponding area in the skull of Individual 1. Both of the fragments are from grown individuals. The postcranial bones are gracile. The almost intact thigh bone (femur) derives from a female with a calcula- ted stature of 155,9 cm.5 The shin bone (tibia) is very well preserved, but lacks the upper part, that is, the knee joint. Both in size and shape it clearly seems to belong with the thigh bone. Both postcranial bones are from grown individuals. It is not yet possible to state unequivocally which of the bones in the assemblage belong to which individual or individuals. This ques- tion may be resolved through additio- nal finds of bones, and not least, through DNA-analyses. Reconstruction In connection with an exhibition of the Søgne find at the Historical Museum in Oslo in 1998, it was decided to make an attempt at reconstructing the head and face of Individual 1. In order to do this, the skull was put through a com- puter-tomographic scanning, which means that the skull was X-rayed in a series of layers. The information was digitalized and a data model of the 7 niku temahefte 031 7 Fig. 2. Surviving skeletal material Fig. 3. The skull of Individual 1 and the frontal bone of Individual 2. Photo: Anne E. T. Winterthun. Fig. 4. The upper jaw of Individual 1, showing chipped enamel around the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Photo: Anne E. T. Winterthun. Fig. 5. The right side of the upper jaw of Indi- vidual 1, showing linear enamel defects on the upper right canine tooth. Photo: Anne E. T. Winterthun.