Sunday, 19 October 2014

Across the Baltic Arch

This week saw me unexpectedly being a northern expert at Stockholm - thanks to my docentship at the University of Oulu that has resulted me keeping an eye on my colleague's work presented in a closed Facebook group and more widely in Facebook and different archaeological media. Speaking and reading Finnish is sometimes a plus, even if we Finns have to learn more than two languages in order to communicate properly in the modern world. My expertise had its use during the questions of Per H. Ramqvist's interesting talk about the large Recalling the past research programme that tries to shed light to the little known late Iron Age and Medieval period in Norrland, Lappland and elsewhere in the northern Sweden. This area was the meeting point of the Sami, Scandinavians and Finns during this period and very few archaeological monuments related to permanent [Scandinavian] farming communities are known even if there is an understanding that animal fur was one of the high-status exports during the time and there are unique farm stead of Gene (Ramqvist 1983) in Norrland and a few burial mounds and stray metal finds from the coastal area near the modern Finnish border.

A reconstructed house at Gene

Archaeology tends to be a national discipline and the research follows national [and language] boundaries. Thus, in most of the maps in Ramqvist's presentation the colours and symbols restricted to the area within the Swedish national boundaries and Norway and Finland were almost empty. However, this is actually far from the truth and I know that the last two years have revealed a new Late Viking Age inhumation burial ground in Ii in the northern coastal area in Finland. There are also plenty of both Sami monuments in Finnish Lapland (that starts basically where the Swedish finishes - a source of one stilted discussion at the department this week, since mentally I perceive Swedish Lapland as 'Norrland', since Finnish coast line is still technically northern Ostrobottnia, not Lapland) and the same stone settings plentiful on the Swedish side and connected to seal hunting are similarly plentiful also on the Finnish side.

I proceeded to ask if the University of Umeå that is running the research programme does collaborate with the University of Oulu, which has its seminar dig at Ii and has for decades studied northern Iron Age and Medieval period. The answer was delightful 'yes'. It seems that different projects and programmes at Umeå and Oulu discuss with each other and are in some kind of merging process. Thus, we can expect that in the future we will see distribution maps where there are colours and symbpls for example fpr different monument types and Sami placenames from both sides of the border.

Ramqvist, P. H., 1983. Gene. On the origin, function and development af sedentary Iron Age settlement in Northern Sweden (Archaeology and Environment 1). Umeå: Umeå universitet.

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