The Excavation and Heritage Project at Kierikki, Finland.
This is a report on the excavations carried out at Kierikki, which is in the province of Oulu in Finland. I will describe what the aims were as well as what happened during my time there. The placement was from the 30th June to the 9th of August and was organised and paid for by Grampus. The host was Kierikki Stone Age centre which is run by Patrick Franzen. The excavation was worked by 6 students including myself as well as several tourists and the site director Sami Viljanman. We were also required to thatch a reconstructed Stone Age dwelling which was run by Inga Nieminen.
Host Organisation: Kierikki Stone Age centre run by Patrik Franzen.
Location: Kierikki, Yli-LI, Finland.
Duration: 30th June-9th August 2009.
Height above sea level: The excavation was 60m above sea level.
Topographical location: Excavation was located 100m from the Kierikki Stone Age centre. It was contained within dense forest. The Stone Age village was located on a beach next to the river Iijoki.
The Placement included: Excavation of a Stone Age house depression. Thatching a roof of a Stone Age reconstruction dwelling and participating in experimental archaeology.
Aims: The aims of the excavation was to excavate a Stone Age dwelling and to thatch as much of the reconstruction dwelling as was possible.
Modern humans started to colonise southern Scandinavia around 13000 BC. Following the Norwegian coast, they reached the northernmost parts of Fennoscandia by 9000 BC. These people were the ancestors of the Saami(Lapps).(Eilola and lehtinen p12)
I began my placement in the Kierikki Stone Age centre which is situated near the River Iiioki Which is located within the province of Yli-Li. Several Neolithic finds were discovered over the past century and excavations began in 1960 when a hydroelectric power station was being built on the River Iiioki. There are numerous Neolithic sites around the area but Kierikikangus is the largest and this is where the excavation took place. The site itself is dated to 4000-3500bc and contains around forty house depressions one of which I excavated. The excavation was 100m from the Kierikki Stone Age centre which contained a museum charting the history of the site and also a restaurant. It is located near to the River Iiioki in Neolithic times the river was next to the excavation. However this has now retreated and where the coast is today lies a reconstruction of the what the house depressions may have looked like. During the last centuries of the Stone Age a new type of large house appeared in Kierikki archaeologists have uncovered a pair of rectangular house rows with log frames. (Eilola and lehtinen p20) The rows of houses are made of wood with earthen roofs and some are thatched. Within the houses there were several hearths and wooden benches which were covered in animal hides. There were also holes in the roof for the smoke to escape. The reconstruction of these dwellings was based on previous excavations from the surrounding area. It is probable that many generations of people built houses at different times following the river as it retreated over the years to where seals were to be found.
Three trenches were excavated during the period of which I was there using the Finnish method of excavation. These consisted of trench A,B and C(c was partially excavated). The Finnish method of excavation differs from others in that usually 5cm of soil is removed and then recorded until the trench is completed. I will now describe these trenches and what was found within I will also describe the reconstructed dwelling of which I also took part in.
As the main trench of the excavation Trench A was the most important in terms of both finds and the overall outcome. The trench was 4m wide x 6m long it was chosen to be excavated because it was thought to contain a house depression. During the excavation of 2008 the adjacent area next to the trench uncovered a pit and half of a row house. Because of this trench A was excavated in order to find the other half. As the location of the excavation was within dense forest the soil consisted of leeched layers with dirt soil and many roots. This type of soil is very acidic and therefore bones do not survive well as was the case in last year’s excavations when a red ochre burial was discovered with just the outline of the body.
At first the topsoil was cleared and removed this contained many roots and tree stumps which had to be sawn off. After the topsoil had been removed an EDM and measuring staff was used to measure the depth of the trench and the height above sea level. We started off at 60m above sea level and gradually went deeper. We were each allocated a 1m square within the trench from which 5cm was removed the soil being sieved for finds. During the process of removing the soil we sometimes overestimated the 5cm depth and went to deep or in some cases too shallow but this was fixed as the excavation went on.
It was during this stage that half of a slate ring was discovered in the southern section of the trench it was around 6cm in diameter and proved an important find. During this time a TV crew filmed us we were also in a newspaper. Two small pieces of Burch bark tar were also found here they came from the bark tree and would of been used as chewing gum so it seems the invention of chewing gum is nothing new!.
As the soil was removed deeper several features emerged such as a circular feature which covered 2m squares a semicircular feature and an outline of the house depression. Each layer of the feature was removed to reveal small pieces of quartz flakes and comb ware pottery. There was also a quartz scraper which I found within the feature and other pieces of small pottery. There are two types of pottery in this area early comb ware and comb ware comb ware contained decorations in a style of a comb they were much rarer than the earlier type which was less decorated(Eilola and lehtinen p17). Sami the project director described this feature as being a small rubbish pit. The pit was dug until the sea level was reached at 59.85m it was then filled in as there was nothing else found within. After the pit was excavated we focused on the other features. In the southern part of the trench a slate arrowhead was discovered at 15cm long this proved to be one of the best finds from the excavation. This was discovered next to the semi circular feature which contained comb ware pottery and large quartz scrapers. This appeared to be a pit the other half being excavated last year. Next to the house depression a tourist discovered a large slate tool around 30cm in length. This was written about in a newspaper and it has been suggested that it was used for cutting open flesh or breaking the ice in the winter. Also around the edge of the house depression other large quartz scrapers were found. When the house depression feature was excavated there were no finds. This may have been because animal skins could have been placed on the ground so that nothing could touch the soil. The inhabitants may have removed the skins when they left hence why nothing was discovered here. The excavation of trench A revealed two pits one on the outskirts of the depression and the other inside it. The best finds were discovered from the pit within the depression. It is not hard to imagine the residents using the pits to through away bits of animal bone and disused pottery.
Trench B was excavated last year and therefore was already partially excavated. It was located to the south east of trench A and was also 4m wide x 6m long. Previously quartz flakes were found and as the trench was located close to the house depression it was a good possibility that there would be finds here. As the trench had already been partially excavated we were each assigned to a 1m square and began removing each layer. At first layers at were 10cm and later were reduced to 5cm the EDM and measuring staff were again used. After each layer had been removed the trench was photographed and documented any finds were recorded on a finds map and then cleaned and catalogued. Tourists were placed in this trench as well as in trench A and we all supervised them. Each square was removed with trowel and hand shovel. As each layer was removed a feature in the eastern quarter of the trench became visible this would turn out to be another pit. Several quartz flakes were discovered around the feature and also small pieces of pottery. The surrounding squares were excavated surprisingly revealing very little in terms of finds and features. The pit itself was around 2m in diameter and was last to be excavated it was possible to see the pit in the profile of the trench baulk. Small pieces of seal bone were discovered as well as comb ware pottery from within the pit. A profile drawing of a section was drawn by my myself, before the trench was filled in. Compared with trench A this was rather disappointing, but nevertheless was used as a rubbish pit for the nearby dwelling.
Fig-Drawing a profile plan, the pit is visible on the side of the baulk.
Four weeks into the excavation another trench was laid out this trench was only partially excavated because there was not enough time for us to continue. Trench C was located to the south west of trench B and was 6m long x 2m wide. The previous year a red ochre burial was found in the adjacent area and it was a possibility another trench would reveal more also more tourists were arriving and another trench was needed to fit them. The soil consisted of gravel which had been placed there during construction in the 1960’s this was overlying a leeched layer. Shovels were used to remove the gravel but it was very hard to remove this layer and when we did all that was found was iron pipes from the 1960’s. We ran out of time before we had chance to excavate this trench further and it was left for further students to excavate.
Finds were cleaned weekly and were contained within finds bags which had co-ordinates X, Y and Z on them. Pottery was dry cleaned with a tooth brush and then put into bags and labelled. Slate and quartz were brushed with a wet toothbrush and then also bagged and catalogued.
The Stone Age village-Thatching the reconstructed dwelling
The village, which is located next to the River Iiioki contained several reconstructions of late Neolithic rowed houses. The structures themselves consisted of timber frames with the roof consisting of moss and thatched straw with moss. Within the Stone Age village, contained a row house which consisted of three long houses joined together. The interior of which had a timber floor with animal hides to sit on as well as a hearth with a hole in the roof for the escaping smoke.. There were also similar single structures adjacent to the row house one of which was being constructed. Modern tools were used to construct and thatch the roof.
Different lengths of straw were required to thatch the many layers, these included short, medium and long. Reed or ‘vitsas’ from the river were also collected, these would be used to tie the straw around the wood. Bundles of straw were placed on the roof underneath the log and then a vitsa was pushed through the straw and then bent around it and pulled before being wrapped around the log. The bundles were then cut open with a knife and spread out. One person then hammered the wood close to each vitsa while another person pulled tightly on the vitsa so as to tighten the straw. This was done on every layer along the each of the logs. A square piece of wood was used to bash the straws and make their length even. The sides of the dwelling were rather difficult to thatch as both ends needed to be pulled together while a vitsa was wrapped around them.
Fig -Placing the wood onto the side of the dwelling ready for tieing down
Fig –The Stone Age market showing rein-actors making fire and preparing food.
The Stone Age market
During the first weekend of August, Kierrikki hosted a Stone Age market at the Stone Age village. Many tourists turned up to see the re-enactors perform tasks such as making fire, cooking food in the ground, flint knapping, wrestling and even using a sauna. We dressed in appropriate clothes for this period (brown leather trousers and top with animal skins) and participated in the many activities which included archery, flint knapping, making slate jewellery and using a reconstruction of a Neolithic dugout canoe. I enjoyed the flint knapping as it gave me a greater insight into the different techniques and the required skill needed to make such tools. I enjoyed this experience and managed to make a flint scraper myself and would like to try this again.
The aim of the excavation was to excavate a Stone Age dwelling before we returned home and to thatch as much of the reconstructed dwelling as was possible. The project was successful in that it achieved both of the above aims during the duration of my stay. The dwelling in trench A was fully excavated and recorded and filled in before we left, and we managed to thatch as much of the roof as possible. The whole experience for me has been very worthwhile. This project has given me a greater insight into life as an archaeologist and I now know that I want to be in this sector of work. I came into the project with an open mind and I have learnt skills in how to thatch a roof, draw and record finds, flint Knapp and also using the Finnish method for excavation. Kierrikki certainly has a good future as there are plenty of dwellings to excavate. It would be interesting to come back in a few years and see what has been discovered. I never expected to find a quartz scraper or to be in a newspaper and TV or try so much experimental archaeology this truly has been an enlightening experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone.
Eilola.M. and Lehtinen.L. Kierrikki Stone Age Centre exhibition guide. Kierikki. Kirjapaino KALEVA. p12.p17.p20
Figs -Taken by myself
I have included a number of additional photographs which did not make it in the report.
A Finnish article, concerning the beginning of the excavation.
Author: Jeremy Hallatt