Finland

 

Hard on the heels of my visit to Brasil I spent a week in northern Finland.  This was quite a range from south of the equator to just south of the arctic circle.  The Finnish visit was sponsored by the Kierikki Stone Age Centre just east of Oulu, Finland.  The excursion was organized by GRAMPUS Heritage and Training and funded by the Leonardo Da Vinci fund.  The project was designed to enable Heritage scholars to experience aspects of practice that might enhance their own understandings of the subject.  With my long-term involvement and interest in Experimental Archaeology and public participation in archaeological research, this was a good opportunity to see how this is being done in Finland.  There were four of us on this excursion:  Dr. Linda Hurcombe a colleague in Archaeology at the University of Exeter; Sarah Pattison who works for English Heritage in Cumbria; and Camilla Priede who is a criminologist and teacher in Archaeology-Continuing Education in Sheffieldand myself.  Linda and I travelled together but met Sarah and Camilla at the airport in Uolu.  We were collected from the airport by Miska Sliden, a curator at the Kierikki Museum.  She took us to dinner at a restaurant in an old quarter in Oulu and then on to the Nallikari Camp where we stayed the night in a ‘cabin’.  The camp is a classic European place that has a range of options including tent camping, cabins and areas for caravans (trailers).  It is all very ‘civilized’.  The camp is adjacent to the Baltic Sea.  After settling into tour cabin we took a stroll over to the beach and sheltered on a building porch from a lightening storm that swept through the area.  Being so far north the sun didn’t set until after 10:30 and was up in the sky the next morning by 4:30.  At 9:00 that morning were collected by Leena Lehtinen, who remained our guide and contact for the rest of our visit.  She is in charge of the Kierikki Stone Age Centre.  She drove us through and around Oulu and showed us the sights, including a visit to the historical museum.  Then we drove out an open air museum, Turkansaari.   You can read about the museum on their web page.  It is an island where a local farmer, in 1922, built a small church on the site of an ancient church.  His interest extended to preserving old buildings and through time moved a number of them onto the island.  The site is now a very interesting example of vernacular architecture, primarily related to farming, the lumber industry and especially the pine tar industry.   Pine tar was the major export from the region through several centuries.  It had, and still has, many uses.  There is good technical information (PDF) available about the production process.  Through the years there have also been episode of pine tar production at Turkansaari.  They also have an excellent display of how the tar was transported in barrels carried by longboats.  We were treated to an excellent tour of the grounds and learned a lot about the local history, industry and through this excellent Open Air Museum.  I highly recommend it.   From there we went out to Kierikki and were put up in a really pleasant motel adjacent to the museum and Stone Age Centre.  The Kierikki Centre includes several hectares which incorporate a Neolithic village that is the focus of on-going research, including excavation under the direction of Sami Viljanmaa.    The museum has excellent displays relating to the excavations and finds.  The excavation was active when we were there with several UK students, from various universities, and other volunteers.  Sarah and Camilla helped in the excavations.  The main popular attraction at Kierkki is the Stone Age Village.  This is a construction on the shore of the reservoir of a series of interconnected ‘row’ houses whose plans were based on archaeological evidence from a nearby site.  This village is the venue for multiple activities including technology demonstrations, some of which visitors can join, and interpretive tours.  The has also been some experiential archaeology done in relation to the functionality of the structures and their long-term preservation.  There is significant potential for this being a venue for true experimental archaeology, but at present the staff of the Centre are completely busy with just keeping it going (unfortunately typical of most outdoor museums).   On our first day at Kierikki Leena took us on a field trip to Roveniemi and the Arctic Circle.  On the way we saw reindeer along the road.  There are no wild reindeer in northern Finland; they are all owned by somebody.  In summer they are left loose to fend for themselves but they are rounded up in the fall, culled for meat and hides and the rest are fed over the winter.  It isn’t much different than the North American western cattle ranches, just in a totally different environment with different animals.  We also stopped at a town called Ranua where there is a zoo (one of only two in Finland).  With a few exceptions the zoo had only animals native to Finland.  There were the expected mammals such as reindeer, moose, bears (brown and polar), beavers, otters, etc.  They also had a lot of birds, mainly raptors.  My favourites were the musk ox and wolverine.    On the return trip to Kierikki, I asked if we could stop at a reindeer farm and see if they had any antler for sale.  I need more flintknapping tools.  Leena knew a farm and they did indeed have some antler.  I bought a nice large male reindeer shed antler (0ne side) and a moose rack still attached to the skull.  Linda also bought a couple of shed female reindeer antlers.  I cut them into transportable size pieces.  Back at Kierikki in the final days of our visit Linda did a lot of plant collecting for her research and I mostly hung out in the Stone Age Village and did knapping demonstrations for visitors.  Linda and I also dismantled one of the row houses that had been up for 20 years and needed replacing.   We were aided some by Sarah and Camilla.  This was just a small contribution we could make to the Centre.