Northern Norway’s sea of islands: processes of maritime colonization and settlement

Author(s): Stephen Wickler

Year: 2017


Epeli Hau’ofa’s (1993) perception of Oceania as a ‘sea of islands’ is a useful point of departure for exploring the long-term trajectories of the many thousands of islands scattered along the coast of northwestern Norway. Hau’ofa’s vision of joined islands is also instructive as a way of emphasizing seaborne connectivity rather than insularity within maritime archaeology. This paper highlights problems related to island colonization and settlement since the Early Mesolithic (11,500-10,000 BP) in northern Norway with potential relevance for island archaeology at a global scale. A central problem is the necessity of documenting island landscape transformations as a prerequisite for understanding human-island interaction in a region where prehistoric shorelines may be currently submerged or elevated. A second problem related to island colonization is the pervasive underestimation of nautical expertise and sophistication of seagoing vessels prior to the Bronze Age in the archaeological literature. Evidence for island settlement among the indigenous coastal Sami is reviewed and the consequences of medieval Norse fishing settlement colonization of islands in Sami areas evaluated as a means of exploring the nature of colonization as a layered process.

Cite this Record

Northern Norway’s sea of islands: processes of maritime colonization and settlement. Stephen Wickler. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430805)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14316