Chertbruddet i Melsvik

År: 2012, 2013
Periode: Eldre steinalder
Type: Utgravning
Sted: Alta, Finnmark

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In 2012-2013, a large-scale developer-funded excavation of a chert quarry took place at Melsvik, Northern Norway. The archaeological investigation covered 1000m2 of the estimated 3500 m2 large quarry, as well as 3500m2 of adjacent settlement areas. Experimental application of quarrying techniques supplemented the archaeological data. The quality and properties of the material was assessed trough geological analyses and experimental knapping. The results show that pioneer groups executed the initial chert extraction during Early Mesolithic (8500-8000 cal BC). Quarrying is also documented during the Late Mesolithic (5000 cal BC). The following 3000 years there is no trace of occupation, but by the last millennium BC the area was again visited. Intensive activity during resulted in massive amounts of lithic waste spread over a large area. However, there are few remains of dwellings, fireplaces or other structures. We suggest that  smaller groups repeatedly and frequently visited the area during the warmer parts of the year, and that the activities more or less exclusively revolved around extraction and processing of chert. Blocks were detached from the bedrock by using fire in combination with different techniques of pounding and wedging. The chert quality is assessed as relatively low, and we estimate that 70-90% of the extracted material was unsuitable for further knapping purposes.