A new EU-funded research project that uses the archaeological public finds evidence gathered by the Finnish Heritage Agency (FHA) has started at the Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki. Dr Eljas Oksanen has been granted a two-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to study Finnish archaeological and historical data using Geographic Information Systems and other Digital Humanities methodologies. The goal of DeepFIN is to reassess and create a new understanding of the deep history of archaeological landscapes and material culture development from the Iron Age (500 BCE - 1200/1300 CE) to the Middle Ages (1200/1300 - 1520 CE). The project seeks to identify what long-term and large-scale patterns related to settlements and the material culture emerge from the archaeological and historical record, how they relate to the physical environment, and how they change across time.
There exists in Finland a considerable body of digitised archaeological evidence that is well-suited to such analysis, including the FHA’s database of stationary archaeological monuments. But of central importance to this project is the growing body of metal-detected finds recovered by members of the public. This latter represents in the Finnish context a completely novel set of data, and as work by the EPFRN has shown has the potential to rewrite our understanding of Iron Age and medieval metal-work material culture. The Finnish publics finds have not, however, been significantly examined through Digital Humanities methodologies, nor has the overall FHA monuments data been subjected to a comprehensive DH assessment. Through investigation of these and other datasets, DeepFIN seeks to create new information on Finnish archaeology and history without recourse to new excavations. But given heritage concerns over metal-detecting, the project will also seek to advance understanding of the challenges and risks involved with managing this citizen science resource in the Finnish context.
Before his appointment in Helsinki Dr Oksanen was based in London, where he has worked with the Portable Antiquities Scheme data in England and Wales as a researcher for the British Museum and an Honorary Research Fellow with UCL Institute of Archaeology. His previous topics of research include the history of international relations, social and commercial developments, and travel and transport during the Middle Ages. His recent Digital Humanities-led work includes an article (with Dr Michael Lewis) on investigating medieval economic history through the PAS small finds evidence, and a GIS database of inland navigation in England and Wales before the Black Death. His monograph on international exchanges Flanders and the Anglo-Norman World, 1066-1216 has been published by Cambridge University Press.