New Medieval Sites Discovered in Finland

Iron Age site | Medieval ArchivesIt was in the autumn of 2010 when local amateur archaeologists discovered evidence of harbor facilities thought to date from around 1000–1200 AD near Ahvenkoski village at the mouth of the western branch of the Kymi River in southeastern Finland. The findings included a smithy, an iron smelting furnace, and forceps, as well as hundreds of iron objects such as boat rivets similar to those found at Viking settlements in different parts of the Baltic, Scandinavia, Scotland and Iceland. Then, in 2011, a possible 2 x 3-meter-wide cremation grave was uncovered, confirmed later through rescue excavations by archaeologists from the Finnish National Board of Antiquities and through osteological analysis at the University of Helsinki. Artifacts included a battle axe, a knife, and a bronze buckle, all associated with burned human bones, initially thought to be dated to around 1000 – 1200 CE before analysis. Similar objects have been discovered in the Baltic Sea area and in Ladoga Karelia. Identical cape buckles have also been found in Gotland.

But based on the University of Helsinki analysis, the cremation grave finds date to a time that is significantly earlier — during the Viking Age between 775-980 CE, based on their application of AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) techniques.

“The dating results show that the pyres burned about 895cal CE, not during the Crusader period,” says Jouni Jäppinen, a key participant in the excavations. “So, now we are talking about a Viking Age harbor baseline in the Kymi River delta.” Other results indicate that the harbor facilities were used from the Viking Age to the end of the Middle Ages, for as long as 500 – 600 years. Jäppinen and colleagues hypothesize that the harbor could have been a part of the Gotland or Danish operating range during the Viking Age, then after the year 1200 in use by Bishop Hemming of Turku, and beginning about 1350 as an Estonian monastery’s salmon export center.

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