Fjällbacka, a settlement from the 1500s

Recently, Bohusläns museum completed two archaeological surveys within Fjällbackas marinas. Fjällbacka is an area that we have not had the oppurtunity to work in previously; an exciting situation. We were, hoping we could shed more light on the early history of Fjällbacka. The surveys were conducted in response to extended city planning and the planned construction of a retaining bank within the southern marina.

Figur 2      S14UM_UMFA53278_2399

                                                                                      Hugo Hallgren – Vy över Fjällbacka hamn

The name Fjällbacka stems from its location: that it resides at the base of ”fjället”; the sharply rising Vetteberget of 74 metres. The enscarpment derives its name from the nordic word ”viti”. that refers, most likely, to the prominent stone cairn on Vettebergets peak. This monument has with all probability functioned as a sea marker up until the modern day.

Fjällbacka is one of several well preserved coastal settlements in Tanums kommun. Its earliest mention is from the first fully fledged tax register of 1610. In the register two fishermen (leaseholders) are registered, residing in Fjällbacka. Although the first mention of Fjällbacka comes from 1610, it is supposed that Fjällbackas origins arise in the advent the ‘sill (herring) fishing period’ of the 1500s. A prime example of this is of the fisherman Mikel that lived at, and fished from the skerry (at the entrance of Dyngöns harbour) of the same name in the 1500s.

Figur 5_1662

The earliest karta showing settlement at Fjällbacka from 1662 (Lantmäteristyrelsens arkiv N8)

 Figur 6_Karta 1694_Stubelius

Fishing village at Fjällbacka,1694 (Stubelius 1940)

     Figur 7_1705_N58-96-1

Fishing village at Fjällbacka,1705 (Lanmäteristyrelsens arkiv N58-96:1)

During the ‘sill fishing period’ of the 1700s, a significant diaspora occurred in Bohuslän. People migrated towards the coast, relocating to take advantage of the sea for their livelihood. Fjällbacka during this period swelled significantly to become a settlement of circa fifty buildings/structures. It was at this time that Fjällbacka started to take off.

During the 1800s the settlement was described as Bohusläns ‘most vivacious fishing village’ and in 1835 the population had swelled to over 300. This was reflected in Bohusläns overall population increase, that had dubbled by the middle of the 1800s. At this time however,  sill numbers were decreasing as the sill period came to its conclusion. Even though the sill was diminishing in number, migration towards the coast was steady if not increasing.

Figur 4_sillfiske_1877_Stubelius_s5

Fishing sill, December 1877 (Stubelius 1940)

Although an emphasis of coastal settlements is fishing; it is not the only form of commerce that was taking place. During the 1800s Kville parish was dominated by farming, although fishing was still a significant source of income both as a profession and as a complement to a farmers income. The ‘fishermen’ during this era were mainly concerned, not with sill, but with fishing/collecting of lobster, oysters and other larger fish species for example cod (Torsk) and flatfish (Halleflundra). There were also other forms of industry that were commonplace. Craftmanship, salvage of wrecked vessels and the collection of different mosses are but to name a few.

Unfortunately our surveys did not result in any significant archaeological remains. However, within the southern survey area during the excavation of test trenches cultural layers dating from the late 1800s to modern day were uncovered. These however, since they originate after 1850, are not fornlämningar (cultural monuments).

Maybe next time…