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Prehistoric and historic finds in the Sámi area

Jul 16, 2013 12:30 PM

Several prehistoric and historic artefact finds have been made in the past few weeks in the region of Inari and Utsjoki. The artefacts have been delivered to the Sámi Museum Siida. The finds – an arrowhead and a rock with a hole that date back to the Stone Age and an underwater find of historic times – are exceptionally fine and rare.

Prehistoric and historic finds in the Sámi area

Stone-age rock with a hole in the middle found from Island Pikkusalmensaari in Lake Inari. Photo: Siida/ Eija Ojanlatva

The week after Midsummer, canoeists found a 15-centimetre stone-age rock with a hole in the middle by the shore of Island Pikkusalmensaari in Lake Inari. They picked the artefact and delivered it to the Sámi Museum already the next day. Such holed stones date back to the Stone Age, more than 4000 years back, but they may also have been used in the Metal Age. The hole of this stone has been bored, from both sides of the artefact. Experts have suggested many functions for such an artefact, but most of the bored stones that have been found have ended up in water. Thus, some of the holed stones are probably weights or clubs.

In June, an arrowhead was found on the shore of Mantokoski Rapids in Utsjoki. The find was made by a local man, Jalo Ranta-Knuuttila, who was looking for a good sharpening stone for his knife while fishing by Mantokoski. Instead of a sharpening stone, he spotted a quartz arrowhead that was lying on its side between the rocks of the shore. The projectile point is about 7 cm long, and it has been manufactured by hitting its edges from both sides with a piece of antler. The arrowhead is leaf-shaped and broken by its pointed end. From the shape and the manufacturing technique, we can conclude that the artefact is 4000–6000 years old.

A few days ago, Laila Aikio from Inari found a keel of a caravan sled made from compression wood in Väylä, in Lake Inari while picking cloudberries. The wood lay in shallow water by the shore and was only partly visible. The one-and-a-half-metre keel is broken by its end and has a few hole pairs by its bottom part, some still with remains of wooden pegs. The keel may be over a hundred years old.Furthermore, the museum received in spring a fishnet float made from bark and a piece of line attached to it. The artefact was entangled in a net that was used for fishing under the ice.

According to Eija Ojanlatva, the archaeologist of the Sámi Museum, people report artefact finds to the museum every summer, but the finds made this summer have been exceptionally fine and rare. Only a few individual holed stones have been found in the Sámi area, she says. Reports on arrowheads are slightly more common, and, often, people find parts of arrowheads that an ancient hunter has dumped as unusable.

For archaeologists, the information on where the find has been made is important, as, at best, even a small find can lead to a new, bigger but earlier unknown archaeological find. Therefore, we suggest that if you think you have found an ancient artefact or dwelling site, contact the nearest museum as soon as possible. You should not start digging ancient monuments on your own, as they are protected by the Antiquities Act.

Áile Aikio, the curator of the Sámi Museum, reminds us that wooden artefacts found in water or in a bog can be hundreds of years old, as wood may stay undecomposed for very long in oxygen-free conditions. When artefacts are then lifted up from the water, they begin to dry fast and may break up in one’s hands. Therefore, if possible, you should leave an artefact that you have found in place under the water so that further research can be done on it. This will allow experts to lift the artefact as carefully as possible, hopefully so that it will not be damaged (or even destroyed). If you make a find, you should mark the site well and contact the closest museum or the Finnish National Board of Antiquities which will tell you how to proceed.

Further information:

Curator Áile Aikio, Sami Museum Siida, tel. +358 400 891 860, aile.aikio(at)samimuseum.fi

Archaeologist Eija Ojanlatva, Sami Museum Siida, tel. +358 40 1676 145, eija.ojanlatva(at)samimuseum.fi

Sámi museum, Siida, Inarintie 46, FI-99870 Inari, tel. +358 (0)400 898 212, siida@samimuseum.fi, www.siida.fi

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