Dendroarchaeology on Svalbard: Material from shipwrecks and other objects

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Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. According to tradition Svalbard was discovered by the Dutchman Barentsz in 1596. This means that the history of Svalbard is young. In the following Centuries people from all over Europe came here for hunting and whaling.
Svalbard has a rich cultural heritage, and visitors will find traces of human activity everywhere. There is little soil, so even the oldest traces are exposed. Cultural remains are found in coastal areas all around the archipelago. The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act states that all traces of human activity dating from 1945 or earlier are protected elements of the cultural heritage. This applies both to permanent cultural monuments such as sites, graves, buildings and facilities of any kind, as well as to unattached artifacts. The artifacts in Svalbard are vulnerable treasures preserved well in the dry and cold climate. However, they are exposed to the ignorance of passers-by. Every year the Governor of Svalbard systematically records artifacts in Svalbard. This work has been going on since 1976 and provides the basis for a Svalbard artifact database.
Finds are stored at Svalbard Museum (see also: In the present project we decided to start our research by doing ‘fieldwork’ in the magazines of Svalbard Museum. 16 objects were chosen for dendrochronological analysis: Objects of oak (Quercus sp.), pine (Pinus sylvestris) and spruce (Picea sp.). The samples were taken as cores or discs. So far we have been able to date five items - 4 ship parts and one ladder - one piece of oak and four of pine. The oldest object dates to ca. 1730 AD, and the youngest to 1956 AD.
The project is supported by Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund, project nr. 14/14 and 15/101.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEurodendro 2017 - University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
Duration: 6 Sept 201710 Sept 2017


ConferenceEurodendro 2017
LocationUniversity of Tartu
Internet address

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