ENCIRCLING THE CRAFT TRADITIONS OF FRESHWATER FISHING
AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL STUDY OF WHEEL-SHAPED NET SINKERS IN THE SCANDINAVIAN INTERIOR (AD 800–1300)
Keywords:Fishing gear, sinkers, birch bark plaiting, experiments, chaîne opératoire, Viking Age, Middle Ages
This paper investigates wheel-shaped net sinkers, that is hoops made of rods and with plaited birch bark fibres, clasping a sinker stone in the centre. Recently recovered from forest and mountain lakes of central Scandinavia, and dated to AD 800–1300, these sinkers offer a glimpse into the use of birch bark during the Viking Age and the medieval period. By combining archaeological analysis and experimental replication, this paper firstly aims to explore the knowledge and skills involved in the making. Secondly, we investigate the relationship between the specific crafting process and the broader craft traditions and technologies of which the sinkers were a part, and we suggest that birch bark plaiting represents a technological and aesthetic craft tradition originating in Karelia and Estonia. The sinkers were utilised in freshwater fishing and attached to the bottom line of gill or seine nets. We propose that this specific net fishing technology was introduced to central Scandinavia as a result of agricultural expansion from east to west around AD 800.