DeepFIN: Assessing Archaeological Deep Time in Finland through Spatial Exploration 500 BCE - 1520 is an interdisciplinary research project combining historical, archaeological and Digital Humanities approaches, and running at the University of Helsinki Department of Cultures from 2020 to 2024. It has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships grant agreement No 896044.

Considerable new reservoirs of historical and archaeological data have been developed Finland and in other European countries in the recent years. This cultural heritage 'big data', however, has been under-exploited in research and there remains considerable scope for deploying quantitative and other Digital Humanities Methods in its study. In particular, owing to its time-depth, the archaeological record offers exemplary and unique opportunities for studying the effects of long-term processes on societies - many of which continue to inform modern demographic patterns. 

In Finland, the body of digitized archaeological material that is well-suited to such analyses includes the Finnish Heritage Agency’s (FHA) database of archaeological sites and monuments, but significantly also a growing body of metal-detected public artefact finds recovered by members of the public and recorded by the FHA. This latter represents in the Finnish context a completely new body of material that has not been properly examined through Digital Humanities and Data Sciences methods. This is also true for many other European countries where metal-detecting is legal (with restrictions) and where similar database are developed, and there is therefore considerable scope for advancing cultural heritage research on this field on a transnational scale. Furthermore, there are considerable issues related to opening this data through national data services. DeepFIN proposes to tackle this topic, producing both research on how this material may shed new light into the past, but equally in how to develop new digital digital infrastructure for enhancing its availability to everyone as shared cultural heritage.


The goal of this MSC research programme is to analyse Finnish archaeological and historical data through spatial analysis and other Digital Humanities methodologies, in order to reassess its scientific and cultural potential, and to create new understandings for archaeological landscapes, historical settlement and material culture development across the Finnish Iron Age to the Middle Ages (500 BC - AD 1520). This project will consider long-term and large-scale patterns related to human activity and material culture as they emerge from the research data, how they relate to the environment, and how they change across time. The project will equally deploy other European archaeological archaeological and historical datasets comparable to those being developed in Finland (e.g., public artefact finds material, archaeological sites, travel infrastructure and settlement data) in order to develop both qualitative and quantitative Data Sciences methods for the study cultural heritage 'big data', and advance methodological developments for the study of the past. By employing significantly under-used existing database resources, DeepFIN will seek to create ground-breaking new information on Finnish and European archaeology and history without recourse to new excavations and data collection.

Personnel and Research

Eljas Oksanen (pictured) leads research for the project. Associate Professor Suzie Thomas acted as the project's mentor in 2020-2021, and Professor Volker Heyd as its mentor in 2021-2023. Taika-Tuuli Kaivo worked for DeepFIN as a research assistant in 2021, and Ida Saarenpää in 2023.

DeepFin has been carried out in close cooperation with the interdisciplinary Computer Sciences, Numismatic and Digital Cultural Heritage project DigiNUMA: Digital Solutions for European Numismatic Heritage in collaboration between the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish National Museum. Also lead by Oksanen, DigiNUMA has researched Linked Open Data and Semantic Computing solutions to opening complex cultural heritage data, and has developed the CoinSampo data service to open Finnish numismatic finds made by the public. DeepFIN has also initiated a pilot project into the digitization and study of Finnish historical routeways that has led to the Academy of Finland-funded Historical Travel and Communications in Finland c. 1650-1917 four-year research project.

Publications Linked to the Project

Bilotti, G., Kempf, M., Oksanen, E., Scholtus, L., Nakoinz, O. (accepted 2024). ‘Point Pattern Analysis (PPA) as a Tool for Reproducible Archaeological Site Distribution Analyses and Location Processes in Early Iron Age South-West Germany, PLoS One.

Oksanen, E., Ehrnsten F., Rantala, H., and Hyvönen, E. (2024). ‘Semantic Solutions for Democratizing Archaeological and Numismatic Data Analysis’, ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage 16.4, 1-18

Oksanen, E. & Lewis, M. (2023). ‘Evaluating Transformations in Small Metal Finds Following the Black Death’, Medieval Archaeology 67.1, 159-86. 

Oksanen, E. & Roiha, J. (2023). ’Methodological Perspectives for Applying Spatial Point Pattern Analyses to Finnish Iron Age Remote Sending Data’, in Moving Northward. Professor olker Heyd’s Festschrift as he turn 60, eds. Antti Lahelma, Mika Lavento, Kristiina Mannermaa, Marja Ahola, Elisabeth Holmqvist and Kerkko Nordqvist, The Archaeological Society of Finland, 426-44.

Oksanen, E., Saarenpää, I. & Lahtinen, A. (2023) 'The HISCOM Project. Exploring Methodologies for Large-scale Digitisation of Historical Roadways’, SKAS 2/2022, 8-14

Oksanen, E., Saarenpää, I. & Lahtinen, A. (2023). ‘Historical Travel and Communications in Finland’, GIS Database.

Oksanen, E., Rantala, H., Tuominen, J., Lewis, M. Wigg-Wolf, D., Ehrnsten F. & Hyvönen, E. (2022). ‘Digital Humanities Solutions for Pan-European Numismatic and Archaeological Heritage Based on Linked Open Data’, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, 352-60. 

Rantala, H., Oksanen, E., and Hyvönen, E. (2022a). ‘Harmonizing and Using Numismatic Linked Data in Digital Humanities Research and Application Development: Case DigiNUMA’, Extended Semantic Web Conference 2022, 26-30.

Rantala, H., Ikkala, E., Rohiola, V., Koho, M., Tuominen, J., Oksanen, E., Wessman, A., & Hyvönen, E. (2022b). ‘FindSampo: A Linked Data Based Portal and Data Service for Analyzing and Disseminating Archaeological Object Finds’, The Semantic Web 2022, 478-94.

Oksanen, E. (2022). ‘Trade and Travel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of William the Conqueror (c.1025–1100), ed. by Benjamin Pohl, Cambridge, 118-39.

Wessman, A. & Oksanen, E. (2022). ‘Metal-detecting data as citizen science archaeology’, in Odes to Mika. Professor Mika Lavento's Festschrift as he turns 60 years old, eds. Petri Halinen, Volker Heyd & Kristiina Mannermaa, The Archaeological Society of Finland, 293-302.

Hyvönen, E., Rantala, H., Ikkala, E., Koho, M., Tuominen, J., Anafi, B., Thomas, S., Wessman, A., Oksanen, E., Rohiola, V., Kuitunen, J., & Ryyppö, M. (2021). ‘Citizen Science Archaeological Finds on the Semantic Web: The FindSampo Framework’, Antiquity 95, 1-7.