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 work 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, bags are emptied one after each other and the finds are taken for cleaning and cataloging. All finds are listed with information such as material, weight and coordinates, while they are also organized neatly on a tray for storage. Later, after each tray is filled and organized, all finds are given their own reference number, which is written down both on the finds themselves and the excavation report.

Cleaning and cataloging is often a part that takes quite a while to complete - especially if the site is very rich in finds - but it's only the beginning!

As excavations are conducted in layers, each layer is documented with care and precision. Layers are both photographed and drawn with all the features marked down. Elevation of the layer is measured evenly all around with a total station and marked down in the drawings - even elevation of stones is marked down separately. All this data needs to be turned into an easily readable and digitally stored form and thus the drawn plans are redrawn on a computer - usually with a GIS application.  

During excavations, there are also many samples taken for further research. Some of them are sent abroad for results - such as the coal samples we have taken from Stone Age sites for radiocarbon dating in Uppsala. Some stay in Finland to employ archaeologists specialized in osteology or macrofossils for the upcoming months.

When all of these (and many more) pieces slowly fall together, they are all added to the final research report that will be delivered to the archives of the Finnish Heritage Agency. Hopefully the information stored within them will also be used for other publications or wider research attempts. Past reports can be seen for example on, although a newer portal is also about to be launched.

However, as my contract with the agency is about to expire, I will leave both the field work and laboratories for now and return to my chambers at the university. First, I will take a long-needed holiday and enjoy Christmas with my family.

Thank you for following my writings this year and see you again when spring is here!


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