Saturday 6 October 2018

Bones from Tiikkinummi and some DNA news

After getting the bones mentioned in the last post, I’ve been going through the boxes to ascertain their condition and size. Most of the bones have been cremated and broken into fragments, but fortunately the preserved pieces are large and can be identified on a general or even detailed level. Only the large bones of the limbs (e.g. humerus, tibia) are in smaller pieces, but it’s uncertain if this is because of deliberate breaking after the cremation or due to natural causes.

After this I’ve focused on the analysis of the remains from a cremation grave in Salo (formerly Perniö) Tiikkinummi, which was excavated in 1899 by Alfred Hackman (the grand old man of Finnish Iron Age). The grave was a rectangular stone setting (8.7 m x 6 m) delimited with large boulders and within these external perimeters was a thick layer composed of small stones and soil. There seems to have been two different phases of use of the grave, because some of the cremated bones were located on the top layer and the rest were underneath the stone and soil filling. The total weight of cremated bones is approximately 15.3 kg, which is unusually large amount in the context of the Finnish Early Iron Age. The artefacts found from the grave date it to the Late Roman Period (Keskitalo 1979: 28–29).

On Friday I also had a meeting with collaborators for the DNA analysis of some of the uncremated bones I’ve found from other sites. I was expecting that there would be some uncremated bones among the cremated ones and I wasn’t disappointed. There were samples from two individuals from a site dating to the Early Roman Period and these will hopefully be analysed in the near future. 

Grave g from Tiikkinummi. Only the larger stones have been drawn (Hackman 1905: fig. 17).


Hackman, A. 1905. Die ältere Eisenzeit in Finnland – Die Funde aus den fünf ersten Jahrhunderten n. Chr. Helsinki, Aktiengesellschaft F. Tilgmanns Buch- und Steindruckerei.

Keskitalo, O. 1979. Suomen nuoremman roomalaisen rautakauden löydöt (Helsingin yliopiston arkeologian laitos, moniste n:o 20). Helsinki, University of Helsinki.

Sunday 30 September 2018

The game is afoot

I visited the Finnish Heritage Agency (Museovirasto) in Helsinki last week to collect some bones that I’ll be analysing as part of my thesis. Most of these are from Roman Period (1/50–350/400 CE) burial sites which were excavated in the first decades of the 20th century. After this the bones have been waiting for someone to analyse them. Part of the reason why no one has touched them earlier is because majority of the bones are from cremation graves and broken into thousands of fragments. This presents an extra challenge for an osteologist and going through them is slower than with uncremated remains.

I also expected that there would be some uncremated or partially cremated bones present and after cursory checking during the unboxing this was confirmed. These bones will be heading for a DNA analysis and hopefully the results will bring new insight to the population history of Finland. The cremated bones will face osteological analysis so that the samples for stable isotope analyses can be identified. Osteology will also help in identifying the age, sex and health of the individuals heading for these analyses.

Dan Hill sang in the First Blood that "it's a long road", but this is also going to get very exciting.

Trunk full of research materials.