Monday, 2 December 2013

Amazing results from Finland

This week I attended the Archaeologist Days (Arkeologipäivät) of the Archaeological Society of Finland at the Konnevesi research station of the University of Jyväskylä. The experience was very enjoyable – I had not seen some of my colleagues attending for 15 years and there were a large number of archaeologists I had never met. My stay was slightly cut short by the rush to my aunt’s bedside, but I manage to hear about the exciting research projects especially in the central and northern parts of Finland. These areas seem to be the destinations of the pioneering settlers after the last moments of the last ice age and the finds from many sites testify of the eastern contacts and origins. The new co-operations across the borders and the new scientific methods allow tracking the movements of raw materials and technologies from east to west.

The exciting contacts are not restricted to the earliest Mesolithic in Fennoscandia or northern Finland only. An archaeo-chemist from Helsinki, Elisabeth Holmqvist-Saukkonen, is studying the movements of corded pottery vessels and grog between Estonia, Finland and Sweden by studying fabrics and grogs using SEM-EDS and PIXE in order to first separate between the clay mass and inclusions and then tracing the main components and trace metals. Her preliminary results show, how the Swedish and two separate south Finnish groups cluster differently, and how both vessels and grog seem to have moved from Finland to Sweden. A Swedish colleague had earlier suggested a Finnish connection in the diffusion of the corded ware to central Sweden due to the differing decorative systems between Sweden and Denmark and the similarities between Sweden and Finland. Absolutely riveting stuff.

LaPio project (settlement pioneers in Lapland) and Nordic Blade Technology Network study the earliest blades in Finland from c. 9000 BC and the movements of raw materials from the east. Similarly, Sarvinki project and the Neolithisation of North-Eastern Europe (c. 6000 – 2000 BC), are looking for eastern contacts and early pioneering life styles and materials in the central and northern Finland. The latter project has received relatively large grant from the Academy of Finland and will compare well-studied assemblages from Finland and Russian Karelia. It seems that the southern Neolithic is not the only source of influences and the Neolithic package is different in different areas. The project has just started, so we will have to wait for deeper results for approximately three years.

It was exciting to see how well the archaeologists working for the Forest authorities in Finland have managed to use laser scanning data at the macro level. Naturally, as Jouni Taivainen explained, not all monument types are recognisable from the data, but they definitely help to isolate tar extraction and charcoal burning sites and Second World War installations. Sadly, the great Bronze Age cairns disappear to the background.

In addition, the results of Mikael Manninen about the change of contacts and cultural make-up between the White Sea and inner Lappland during the cold event c. 8900 BC was highly important as well. However, those results will be published to the wider audience in the Monographs of the Archaeological Society of Finland, so they will be the topic for another blog in January.

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