Results from Keitele – fishing throughout millenniums

In 2018, I was working in the trial excavation team of the Finnish Heritage Agency, and my first site with the crew was Maaherranniemi in Keitele – a site that I even titled Mesolithic Paradise earlier in my blog. While I have good memories of digging through the soft soil typical to such Stone Age dwelling sites, I also remember the atypical heat wave and pestering horse flies that accompanied us to the trenches. Now, year and a half later, the report of the site is finally finished and available online, so I wanted to share a brief look into what we accomplished.

Work in process during lunch break – disturbed soil in the middle is from a test trench of 2017.
Maaherranniemi is a good example of sites that trial excavation teams typically works at, as the land owners were planning a new summer house and the previously discovered Stone Age dwelling site had to be properly excavated before the construction could begin. Before our excavation, the team had already conducted a trial excavation at the site, revealing enough underground layers to organize a longer excavation with more work force. Thus, we returned to the site for two weeks in July 2018.

Three larger excavation areas were opened to cover the areas where the summer house and a pier would be built. By opening multiple areas at once, we also got some time to breath while documenting, as all the diggers could switch to another trench, while one was being documented by drawing and photographing.

Typical finds from trenches 1 & 2.
Trenches 1 and 2 were similar in the sense that the soil itself revealed no signs of human activity and all finds consisted solely of quartz – expect some pieces of unrecognized bronze item from topsoil of the trench 2. There was also one definite fireplace and one possible fireplace in the trench 1, but neither of them revealed any animal bones.

Trench 3, on the other had, proved a bit more peculiar, as there were a plenty of different types of finds and the human influence had colored parts of the soil dark brown. There were also three larger fireplaces, surrounded by a plenty of burnt animal bones.

During the excavation, we collected altogether 15 918 artefacts, which consisted of 14 848 pieces of bone, 986 quartz flakes and 57 quartz items. The rest of the finds included stone items, stone flakes and pieces of aforementioned unrecognized bronze item.

During the osteological analysis by Katariina Nurminen, 1408 pieces of bone were recognized by their species. Majority of them seemed to be from Northern pike (249 pieces), while bones of moose (39), cyprinids (38) and European perch (30) were numerous as well. A few bones were also from Eurasian beaver and a single bone from a zander.

However, what was perhaps the most interesting piece of information about the site, was the results from radiocarbon dating. After the excavation, three charcoal samples from three excavated fireplaces were sent to the Ångströn laboratory of the Uppsala University giving the following results:

  • Trench 1: 8632±29 BP
  • Trench 3, sample 1: 2232±31 BP
  • Trench 3, sample 2: 5212±28 BP
  • Trench 3, sample 3: 7172±61 BP (elk bone, dated earlier in 2017)
Thus, trench 1 and neighboring trench 2 seem to be from the Mesolithic period (7700-7600 BC), as I had written in my previous blog post. However, trench 3 seems to showcase human activity from multiple periods all the way from Late Mesolithic period (6100-5900 BC) throughout the Comb Ceramic culture (4100-3900 BC) up to the Pre-Roman period (400-200 BC).

While digging by the shore of Lake Koutajärvi, it's not hard to imagine why people would return to the place time after time. And as our excavation came to an end, the site would be inhabited once more – possibly by people continuing the same activities of fishing and hunting as their predecessors millenniums ago.

Read more about the excavation from the official report (in Finnish).


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