Archaeologists in search of the Sámi people

Archaeological digs of Sámi settlements carried out in cooperation between universities in Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Archaeologists in search of the Sámi people Summer is fieldwork season in archaeology. In Northern Lapland, a dig of some Sámi settlements is into its fourth week. The dig is part of the three-year BOREAS project, examining settlements and local livelihoods north of the Arctic Circle.

We caught up with Petri Halinen, a researcher from the University of Helsinki, somewhere near Utsjoki, as he was setting off to the dig up in the fells on his all-terrain vehicle.

“It seems likely that the settlement we are working on is relatively recent, possibly even as recent as the nineteenth or twentieth century. It features the traditional division of the interior space of a traditional kota dwelling, with lines of stones extending from the hearth in the centre to the entrance. The space behind the hearth, when seen from the entrance, is the sacred space of the kota, but it is also the place where kitchen utensils and hunting equipment is stored.

The material at recent settlements is valuable as it helps us interpret older settlements. New information is obtained by, for instance, comparing material with written sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.”

The following week, the dig will move to the Kola Peninsula, to the Lovozero area. This dig will also be part of the BOREAS project led by the University of Tromsø.

Last summer, terrain studies identified dozens of places around a lake and on its islands that could be Sámi settlements. There will now be an archaeological dig at one of the sites, possibly more if the weather permits.

“We haven’t done a test dig, so we have no idea what might be there. These places are similar to settlements that have been found previously in Northern Finland and Norway, and they might even turn out to be medieval.”

The fieldwork will continue for three weeks and will be conducted in cooperation between the universities of Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tromsø. The idea is to identify connections between the Sámi settlements in Russia, Norway and Finland.

In August, the dig will continue in Northern Lapland.

Text: Sanna Agullana
Photo: Wikipedia

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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