Prehistory of Finland

Finland’s prehistory is regarded as the time from the first people came to the country until the mid-1100s.

Because of its location, Finland is characterized by varying cultural flows from Russia, Scandinavia and Central Europe throughout prehistoric times. For Nordic archeology, the country has a special significance as a communicator of northeastern cultural impulses to Northern and Central Scandinavia.

Stone age

The long duration of the Stone Age and the many rich settlements, especially from the Camaric culture, give Stone Age research a wide place in Finnish archeology. Due to the stable uplift conditions in Finland, where the sea level has been steadily declining in relation to the land mass from the end of the Ice Age to the present, the study of the location of the finds and past memories in relation to the different shorelines has provided an opportunity for a chronological division of large parts of the material.

Elk head club of soapstone, approx. 5000 years old. Finland's oldest preserved artifact.

The oldest finds are some settlements in southern Finland with simple late Paleolithic quartz tools. They may date back to 8000–6000 years BC At about the same time, it is known from Antrea in southern Karjala ( Karelia ); besides the remnants of a fishing net, it contains tools that, in part, go back to the younger Suomusjärvi culture. This is known from several settlements in southwestern Finland, where, among other things, wide slate tips and stone axes with ground eggs have been found. The Suomusjärvi culture now dates to around 6500-4200 BC. It is followed by the Säräisniemi / Jäkärlä phase. Throughout this time, the gear industry in Eastern Finland and Karjala is more related to the northwestern Russian area and partly based on a special green slatefrom the Onega area.

Around 3000 BC these purely Mesolithic groups are replaced by the chamber ceramic culture. Numerous settlements on the coast and inland waterways have provided a great deal of characteristic ceramic material. Following the changing design of the vessels and their decor, the whole material is divided into three main periods. The origins of the culture are otherwise uncertain, but both the pottery itself and the presence of clay figures and certain ax types suggest an indirect relationship with the early Neolithic cultures of the Black Sea region.

In the later part of the younger Stone Age, the boat ax culture, which is a branch of the European battle ax cultures, comes to Finland. It is known in southeastern Finland from tombs and settlements. Its distinctive war axes are largely made of a local rock type. The boating culture introduced farming and livestock farming, but the older acquisitions of catching, fishing and fishing played an important role right into the Iron Age. It must have quickly mingled with the youngest chamber ceramic culture, so that in southwestern Finland from around 1600 BC finds the uniform Kiukais culture. Its pottery and tools such as slate tips, shaft holes and ordinary work axes mostly date back to chamber ceramic traditions, but also elements from boat culture and Late Neolithic groups in Scandinavia. and Russia can be traced.

The bronze age

In the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, Finland is also divided into different areas that are predominantly dominated by either Western – Scandinavian and Central European – cultural impulses, or Eastern, from Russia and the Eastern Baltic. In Åland, the Scandinavian element was strong already in the younger Stone Age, and this becomes even more evident in the Bronze Age. From its younger period, several settlements are now known, including the large facility at Otterböte with round house smells and a rough pottery named after the site. Also the inventory of the settlements in the southwestern coastal area between western Uusimaa (Uusimaa) and southern Pohjanmaa(Österbotten) shows a connection to the Nordic Bronze Age culture, and from here and from Åland almost all of the almost 100 finds with Scandinavian bronze and castings come from Finland. The rest of the country goes from Late Neolithic all the way up to the northeastern Russian cultural area.

In the interior of the country and in eastern Finland, an older discovery group with asbestos-mixed ceramics can be distinguished, and a younger one, where the clay vessels are mainly decorated with prints of coarse textiles (textile ceramics ); One must also mention the magnificent animal head sculptures in stone, shaped like clubs. In Northern Finland, the finds are of a somewhat different nature and are characterized in particular by strong asbestos- and soapstone-mixed ceramics, which have also been found over larger areas in Northern Sweden and Northern Norway. The centuries after the end of the actual Bronze Age (from about 500 BC) are illuminated only by a few securely dated finds.

The iron age

The oldest Iron Age finds are quite few and consist of unburned or burnt burials gathered in burial fields. Through younger Roman times (250–400 AD) and people’s migration (400–600 AD), this Iron Age culture is steadily expanding, and one can distinguish three main centers of settlement: the southwestern coastal regions, the villages of Satakunta and Häme ( Tavastland) and the coastal area of ​​southern Pohjanmaa. Fire burials are predominant, otherwise burial customs and antiquities vary somewhat from coat to coat, but generally show a steady and uniform development characterized by continued cultural impulses and possibly immigrations from the Eastern Baltic.

The numerous round tombs indicate traditions of the older population in these areas of the country, which are apparently assimilated into the Iron Age culture; and especially in Pohjanmaa, there are also many Scandinavian elements that point to relations with northern Sweden and Norway during the migration period. This is further reinforced in the following period, as there is a profound change in cultural relations.

From the Merovingian period (600–800), these are strongly westernized, and the country receives its most important impulses from Scandinavia, especially from Gotland and eastern Sweden. This is the flowering period of the Finnish Iron Age culture, as a high domestic craftsmanship arises and the West Finnish Iron Age, among others, also reaches Karjala.

The Viking Age and the subsequent Crusade period, on the other hand, seem poorer, and in the rich Eastern Botanical village there is a shift in settlement that has led to a decline in the number of finds. Christianity only slowly emerged in Finland, in the southwestern parts of the country during the 11th and 11th centuries, while prehistoric times in Karjala have been extinct throughout the 13th century, and a distinctive, local Karelian Iron Age culture developed.

The question of whether the different ethnic groups in Finland can be linked to some prehistoric discovery groups is very much debated. Some researchers claim that the first Finno-Ugric tribes immigrated at the same time as the oldest Iron Age culture, while others believe that they can go back to the chamber-ceramic culture in the country.