Returning from the Field

After a long field season, the snow eventually falls and it's time to return from the field. This doesn't mean that all the work would be over though - on the contrary, it only marks the beginning of the more time consuming part of the research. There are multiple steps of research that follows excavations and I don't even try to cover all of it. Instead, in the following posts, I'll give a few examples on the tasks I've been working with recently.
To start with the most obvious, one of the most exciting steps after returning from the field is to dive into all the finds gathered over the days or weeks of hard labor. As there rarely is enough time to see every find on the field, it's always interesting to see the big picture when returning to the finds afterward.
As each find is typically packed separately, there often is a mountain of paper bags to dig through. After they are organized based on the location and layer of the finds within the excavation trenches…

Following the Ochre

While the weather gets colder and ground is covered by frost, most archaeological work is moved into the laboratories and offices. However, we still had time for one more gig - this time in Outokumpu, where we staid three whole weeks excavating a site that would be one of the most memorable ones over my short career. Our task was to finish the excavation of an ochre grave that had already been opened up earlier in summer.
Ochre is a natural clay earth pigment, that has had various uses since the Stone Age. Besides being used as a pigment for rock paintings and small objects, it was also once used on graves. Around 60 such graves, dated to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, have been discovered in Finland.1 Besides ochre, the graves typically contain stone tools and flakes, and especially the Comb Ware graves have contained a plenty of amber, flint and slate objects. However, human teeth or bone has been found only from nine sites.2
Our site was discovered already in the early 90s, …

Teaching the Next Generation

Last year the Finnish Cultural Foundation announced a new Mullankaivajat ("soil diggers") grant, which was applicable for archaeological projects organized in cooperation with schools around Finland. It aimed to bring archaeological research closer to the life of the local children and make them more aware of the history that surrounds them. The grant has already led to multiple excavations around the country and it's no surprise that our trial excavation team got involved with a project as well - this time in Kontiolahti.

In Kontiolahti, we joined a project organized in cooperation with the National Museum of Finland and the Association of Cultural Heritage Education in Finland. Before our arrival the project team had already visited the local school and told the children of various age about the site they were about to research - the house of the local smith Tobias Takkunen from the 19th century.
Children came to the site in small groups and took part in four workshop…

Hidden Among the Planks

As mentioned before, a typical job for the trial excavation team is to conduct small-scale trial excavations in areas that have potential archaeological heritage but are falling under land use. Based on trial excavations, building projects can be halted until further research is conducted or, if possible, a potential area for the construction is found from an area that wouldn't disturb the archaeological heritage. This time our work sent us to further north and after hours of driving, we ended up in the city of Tornio right by the Swedish border.
In Tornio, our mission was to dig test pits and trenches around an empty lot, that would soon fall under further land use. As it’s typical to change the soil for the entire lot when building residential buildings within cities, the whole lot had to be checked for archaeological heritage. This time we couldn’t just find the most suitable place for the building, but rather had to find out if further excavations were needed and if so, to wh…

Mesolithic Paradise

Three weeks in Keitele are finally over and the excavations were conducted successfully to the end. While our days in the trenches remained scorching hot due to the unusually long heatwave, the nearby lake provided some comfort and the multitude of finds kept our spirits high! Even though the finds are still waiting to be examined and the report to be written, I can share some initial thoughts of the excavations at this site that proved to be a Mesolithic paradise to any Stone Age archaeologist.

As we had opened three trenches on the first week, we continued the work on all three areas, while also opening some smaller test trenches to see the extent of the archaeological potential.

The site continued to be rich in finds, although the variety of them was as narrow as expected from a Mesolithic site in Finland. Basically, almost all finds could be divided into two categories - animal bones and quartz. The latter category however contained a variety of objects, flakes and cores. While t…

On the Road Again

For an archaeology students, job opportunities are often scarce and sprinkled around the country, with a contract typically lasting only for the duration of a single excavation. It's also typical that the job ads appear only a few weeks before the said excavation, making it stressful to wait for potential work offers. That's why I've been glad and humbled to have a fixed schedule from early on, and while I have barely had a few days of holiday during summer, I happily moved straight from Hanko to the  beginning of the next journey of my summer – this time within the Finnish Heritage Agency.
As it's said on their website, the Finnish Heritage Agency preserves Finland's material cultural heritage: collects, studies and distributes knowledge of it. They have various departments from museum services to preserving cultural environment and handling research permits for archaeological excavations. My position for the next three months will be within the trial excavation …

Uncovering the WWII Hanko, week III

Three weeks in Hanko went past faster than I expected, but luckily the finds continued numerous during the last week and the new crew made exciting discoveries each day. For this last week, we concentrated our efforts on excavating a sizable trash dump within the Ukrainian prison camp, uncovering layers rich in a variety of finds - porcelain, coins, buttons, combs and a lot more. Meanwhile I led a small task force to finish the excavations at the German Red Cross (DRK) trench, which required still a fair bit of work even after three weeks of excavations.
So far all the trenches we've opened have been a bit different in the type of finds, but with these two trenches the difference was even more clear. While the finds of the Ukrainian prison camp included a lot of personal items, such as a mess tin with its owner's initials carved on it and even a SA Sports Badge, the finds from the DRK trench were very different in style. During these last few days, we found lots of bottles, b…