Archaeology in Norrbotten

An exhibition that presents the very latest research into our collective prehistory and history from an archaeological perspective.

Illustration of hunt for wild reindeer (-8600)Norrbottens museum

The oldest known settlement in the north of Sweden

There have been a human settlement in Norrbotten for at least 10 600 years. The first inhabitants migrated to the area in step with the inland ice retreated. They followed the main source of food, wild reindeers. This era is called the Mesolithic.

The spread of the inland ice (-8600)Norrbottens museum

Aareavaara, a 10 600 year old settlement

North of Pajala lies the village Aareavaara, close to the finnish border. Here lies two unique sites. Carbon dating shows that the settlement here is 10 600 years old. At the time the sites were small islands in an archipelago. The inland ice was close, probably in eye sight.

Quartz flake (-8600)Norrbottens museum

A temporary settlement

The reindeer was a life essential resource at this time. Besides meat, bone and horn it also provided material for winter clothing in an arctic climate. At the two sites were found remains from tool making and cooking of food. The photo shows a quartz chip from tool making.

Cairn (-1000)Norrbottens museum

A Bronze Age Cairn

About 3000 years ago there were individuals buried in cairns and stone settings on Sandholm mountain, clearly visible from the sea. These types of graves are common on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia. The individuals buried here were cremated and then cairns were constructed.

Arrowhead (-3800/-2500)Norrbottens museum

Arrow head of quartzite

The arrow head is made of white quartzite and were found at Abborrtjänslandet in Jokkmokk municipality. During the Bronze Age a  bifacial technique were in use for making tools. The use of stone knapping as main technique for making tools falls out of use about 300 A.D.

Cooking Pit (-2800/-2540)Norrbottens museum

An unusally large cooking pit

The photo shows the profile of a large cooking pit, 4 m in diameter and 1,2 m deep. This was dated to the Late Bronze Age. Cooking pits was primarily used for cooking but have also been used for extraction of oil from seals, to dry fish or meat, roast cereals or preparing hides.

Steel ax (-200)Norrbottens museum

A steel ax made over two thousand years ago

ExcavationNorrbottens museum

Archaeological excavations in Vivungi

Steel was produced and processed to make high-quality objects as early as 2,300 years ago.  It is not only the iron production itself that is unique. At these sites, steel was produced, something that for a long time was considered unusual in the Early Iron Age.

Steel ax (-200)Norrbottens museum

The edge has been treated by temperature changes in several different steps, both by hardening and by tempering to reduce the brittleness of the steel.

Iron furnace (-2200)Norrbottens museum

Iron making furnace excavated in Vivungi

The knowledge of making iron seems to have come to northern Sweden through eastern contacts. This type of construction of the furnace is characterisic. They are contemporary with furnaces of the same type in Finland and Karelen. Steel was manufactured here 2200 years ago.

Bronze Clasp (-2200/-1600)Norrbottens museum

A bronze clasp from the Volga-Kama-area

This clasp was found at a iron making site in Sangis outside of Kalix. It has parallells in the Volga-Kama-area close to the Ural Mountains in modern day Russia. It shows the wide spread networks the population in prehistoric Norrbotten had during the Early Iron Age.

Pearl (1000)Norrbottens museum

A grave find from the Viking Age

A prehistoric grave was found by a school student in 1940 at a place called Brotjärn. Objects and human remains were collected and placed at the County Museum of Norrbotten. Among others this glass bead which was an exclusive object as a grave offering during this period.

The Brotjärn find (1000)Norrbottens museum

Bronze objects from a Viking Age belt

The burial at Brotjärn has a distinct connection to the communication route along the Lule River. The artifacts indicates eastern contacts, modern day Finland and Russia. This is most easily illustrated by the crescent shaped pendants which are common in mentioned areas.

Ritning av grav (-1000)Norrbottens museum

A drawing of a Viking Age grave from southwest Finland

The drawing shows a similar find as that of Brotjärn. Some of the artifacts at Brotjärn had constituted a belt, just like the one at this drawing. Similar finds have been done in other Viking Age burials from southwest Finland. 

Dragging of boat over landNorrbottens museum

Boats were carried or dragged over land

Still to this day there are place names that indicate the dragging or carrying of boats over land. This way of travelling is also described in historic sources all the way up to the 20th century in some areas. The individual at Brotjärn was likely a tradesman who died on route.

Credits: Story

Texts and images are from the "Norrbottens Museums årsbok 2018-2019" (in Swedish)

ISBN 978-91-86333-17-1

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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