History of Sweden between 12000 BC - 4001 BC
The Pleistocene glaciations scoured the landscape clean and covered much of it in deep quaternary sediments. Therefore no undisputed Early or Middle Palaeolithic sites or finds are known from Sweden. As far as it is currently known, the country's prehistory begins in the Allerød interstadial c. 12,000 BC with Late Palaeolithic hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country's southernmost province. Shortly before the close of the Younger Dryas (c. 9,600 BC), the west coast of Sweden (Bohuslän) was visited by hunter-gatherers from northern Germany. This cultural group is commonly referred to as the Ahrensburgian and were engaged in fishing and sealing along the coast of western Sweden during seasonal rounds from the Continent. Currently, we refer to this group as the Hensbacka culture and, in Norway, as the Fosna culture group. During the late Preboreal period, colonization continued as people move towards the north-east as the ice receded. Archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence suggests that they arrived first from the south-west and, in time, also from the north-east and met half-way.
An important consequence of de-glaciation was a continual land uplift as the Earth's crust rebounded from the pressure exerted by the ice. This process, which was originally very rapid, continues to this day. It has had the consequence that originally shore-bound sites along much of Sweden's coast are sorted chronologically by elevation. Around the country's capital, for instance, the earliest seal-hunter sites are now on inland mountain tops, and they grow progressively later as one moves downhill toward the sea.
The Late Palaeolithic gave way to the first phase of the Mesolithic in c. 9600 BC. This age, divided into the Maglemosian, Kongemosian and Ertebølle Periods, was characterised by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers with a microlithic flint technology. Where flint was not readily available, quartz and slate were used. In the later Ertebølle, semi-permanent fishing settlements with pottery and large inhumation cemeteries appeared.
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.