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Mother and Daughter Love

Emotion, childhood, and minorities in the archaeological research seminar

August 4–5 2023 
Oulu, Lasaretti, Merikoskisali (Kasarmintie 13b)

Our emotional bonds with other people are fundamental in terms of the way we interact in the world. Our social actions are often affected by the decisions made based on emotions. During recent years, we have deployed the framework of theory of attachment familiar from developmental psychology to address the impact of relationships and their dysfunctions on past people – and through the intergenerational nature of these issues, even on the current generations. For example, trauma faced by an ancestral group or the dismissal experienced by socially marginalized individuals may have an impact on individuals’ ability to form secure relationships which often influences not only themselves but the upcoming generations. Archaeological research of emotional bonds is not limited to people, but humans also get attached to items and places. While such bonds may be a source of comfort, they can be used to substitute human interactions and lead to adverse outcomes (e.g., hoarding). In this seminar presentations discuss how we can research emotions, attachments, and social bonds in general in archaeology, but specifically in the contexts when children and minorities are involved. How we attach with other people is influenced by our childhood experiences and for this reason, views on the past childhood may be considered central for understanding these phenomena.


Friday 4.8.2023


9.00 Welcome & coffee


9.15 Sanna Lipkin: New Perspectives on childhood in Finland (1300–1900)


10.00 Tiina Väre: Problematic early modern breastfeeding practices in the light of δ15N and δ13C analyses of archaeological dentin


10.45 Jenni Sahramaa: Child burials in Late Iron Age Finland

11.15 Astrid Noterman: Sweet dreams my child – Inhumation of children in funerary beds in Late Iron Age Europe

11.45–12.15 Lunch


12.15 Taryn Bell: Attachment, affection and the archaeological record


13.30 Excursion to Hailuoto


Saturday 5.8. 2023


9.00 Coffee


9.15 Milton Núñez: The fate of the Indocubans – Archaeology of an extinct people


9.45 Saara Tuovinen: Elements of Eldercare


10.15 Marisa Kuusisto: Condemned to death: A brief look in to the fate of five socially liminal individuals in Muhos region in Finland, between the years 1758–1802.


10.45 Marika Hyttinen & Tuuli Matila: Father’s cup – attachment and material culture among working-class families during the postwar era in the city of Oulu, Finland


11.15–12.00 Lunch


12.00–13.00 Erika Ruhl: Hearts on our Sleeves: Emotions and Agency in Pre-Modern Finnish Burial Clothing

13.00–14.00 Discussions and ending the seminar

We have invited Taryn Bell from the University of York to discuss the topic with us. Together with her we have edited a book “Archaeologies of Attachment”. Also, our long-term collaborator Erika Ruhl will discuss emotions in the context of Pre-Modern Finnish burial clothing.
In the seminar we will also summarize our own work in the Academy of Finland funded projects.
If you would be interested in joining us in Oulu, send us your information using this form by July 25.
The number of participants will be limited.  
Coffee, snacks, lunches and dinner in Hailuoto on Friday evening will be provided for the participants. The excursion to Hailuoto is also included in the seminar participation.  
We will not pay for the travels to and from Oulu or the hotel stays. 

Preliminary info for the excursion 
On Friday afternoon we will take a ferry and go to Hailuoto island that is known for its cultural heritage, maritime atmosphere, nature reserve areas, and beer. On the island we will visit a few local attractions and have dinner before taking the night ferry back to Oulu.  


Sanna Lipkin: New Perspectives on childhood in Finland (1300–1900)

For the past six years I have studied different aspects of childhood in Medieval and Post-Medieval Finland. My research has focused on child burials, mummified remains and funerary textiles. Child death is a sentimental occurrence, and my goal has been to study different emotions child death evoked in the parents and siblings. On a broader scale, I am interested in empathy and emotions in the past, and how these provide competence for people to gain resilience in difficult situations. In addition to my personal project the Academy of Finland granted me project funding for early-career researchers. In this presentation I will summarize how we have studied emotions and attachment in childrens’ lives both in daily life and death.


Tiina Väre: Problematic early modern breastfeeding practices in the light of δ15N and δ13C analyses of archaeological dentin

Certain regions of mid-18th-century Sweden were influenced by massive infant mortality. One of the most severely afflicted was the province of Ostrobothnia, Finland (at the time part of Sweden). The contemporary elite believed this to result from the common women of Ostrobothnia deliberately refusing to breastfeed out of vanity and carelessness. In contrast, in southwestern parts of the country breastfeeding was generally traditionally preferred. I have explored infant feeding in both areas by analyzing the δ15N and δ13C values in collagen of 1 mm dentin segments of archaeological permanent first molars. The dental remains originate from the churchyards of 14th–17th century parish of Iin Hamina (n=7) and 17th–18th-century town of Oulu, Ostrobothnia (n=8), and 19th-century town of Rauma, Southwestern Finland (n=11). In Rauma, the isotopic profiles were similarly patterned indicating quite long breastfeeding periods. In Iin Hamina and Oulu, the breastfeeding practices may have been more versatile. 


Jenni Sahramaa: Child burials in Late Iron Age Finland

Child graves are rare among the Late Iron Age cemeteries in South-Western Finland, and most graves contain no objects or preserved bone materials. In this paper, a few exceptional child graves with preserved organic material are discussed from the perspective of emotions and their connection to materiality of the burial rituals. If emotions are historically specific and culturally interpreted, how can emotional bonds be studied from a period that has left us with very little material remains and no literary sources? What place does empathy have in archaeological research?


Astrid Noterman: Sweet dreams my child – Inhumation of children in funerary beds in Late Iron Age Europe

Graves from the Late Iron Age express the variety of responses of the living at the death of a child. The loss of a member of the community, of an heir, of a future that was hoped and maybe longing, or simply the loss of a loved one finds its expression through the funeral ritual. It was some time before the archaeology discipline recognised that the death of children in the past was not emotionless, regardless of the infant mortality rate at the time. Although this issue seems to be widely integrated into research, some practices have yet to be addressed in the context of mortuary archaeology. And the introduction into children's graves of practices that were mainly reserved for adults is one of them. The spectacular inhumations on beds known from southern Germany to southern Scandinavia and England, and dated from the 6th to the early 10th centuries CE, are almost exclusively adult graves. Their interpretation is an ongoing debate, but status, power and beliefs seem to have been the main drive behind. The handful cases of inhumations of children on a bed seem to draw another picture yet, less strategic and with a clear emotional component.

It is the contrast between child and adult bed burials that I would like to discuss in this presentation, and more specifically in terms of emotion and sense. How do understand the transfer of the bed burial practice to children. What does this tell us about the management of loss of these young individuals and more broadly about Late Iron Age societies?


Taryn Bell: Attachment, affection and the archaeological record
From the moment we are born, we are driven by an intense desire to seek out close bonds with those around us. This need for social and emotional connection is a key part of what makes us human, shaping our thoughts, behaviours and relationships. While archaeology has long acknowledged the significance of our social lives, researchers have ignored and neglected the emotional side of social life, as if it’s somehow out of the bounds of archaeological interpretation.


The psychological theory of attachment offers us a tantalising framework with which to redress this imbalance and understand the link between the emotional and social. An archaeological framework of attachment allows us to integrate an understanding of how the emotional and social are imbued in and experienced through material culture, from sacred objects to everyday bits of ‘stuff’.


In this talk, I’ll discuss how attachment theory can be a useful way of rethinking human bonds and material culture through time. Focusing on object attachment - our ability to become emotionally attached to certain objects - I’ll consider what attachment theory brings to archaeology, and how archaeology in turn can offer a deeper, more long-term understanding of human relationships.

Milton Núñez: The fate of the Indocubans – Archaeology of an extinct people

This paper discusses old and new ideas about the indigenous inhabitants of Cuba and their fate after European contact. Cuba was discovered and annexed to Spain on October 27, 1492, and the Spanish settlement led to the rapid decimation of its native population. The surviving Indocubans were liberated from their serf-like condition in the 1550s and then gradually forgotten. By the late 1700s they were thought to be extinct. When Cuban national identity began to emerge in the early 1800s, the Indocuban became a vanished noble savage celebrated by criollo poets and historians. Cuban antiquarians began probing pre-Columbian sites to learn more about them in the mid-1800s. The tragic demise of the Indocubans was still taught in schools in the 1960s. However, the deep-rooted and widespread notion that the Indocubans and their culture were entirely obliterated by disease, mistreatment and the overwhelming influx of European settlers does not quite agree with extant ethnohistorical data, official documents, and recent archaeological and DNA research results.


Saara Tuovinen: Elements of Eldercare

In November 1777, old Mrs. Gertrud Kropsu was buried. She had been a wife of a farmer and a mother for another. She had lived her life as an ordinary member of her small farming community in Haukipudas, few kilometers North from the city of Oulu. But most interestingly, according to the archival material, she spent her last seven years bed ridden. In the Post-Medieval (18th and 19th century) Finnish society the care for elderly and disabled was mostly provided by the family. For those without family, the responsibility of the care was transferred into the local community. Examples from both ways of care-giving can be reported in the archives. This presentation uses those examples to discuss about the attachment theory and emotions related to the care in the past Northern Finland.


Marisa Kuusisto: Condemned to death: A brief look in to the fate of five socially liminal individuals in Muhos region in Finland, between the years 1758–1802

It is a worldwide and even an ancient phenomenon to condemn those individuals to death who have soiled the very core of the society by committing serious crimes within and thus against the society. In Finland the death sentence was still officially a part of the penal system up until the year 1972 and between the years 1500 and 1825 it is estimated that approximately 3,000–4,000 people were executed by the law in Finland.


In North Ostrobothnia, in Muhos, there were altogether five individuals who suffered the death penalty and were executed for their crimes between years 1758–1802. This small, yet meaningful group of people consisted of one female and four male individuals and all but one of their crimes involved the killing of another person. First to be sentenced was young soldier's daughter, Anna Kaisa Ruut in the year of 1758. Her sentence was handed in a local island called Pukkisaari (Rovastinsaari in present times). Anna Kaisa´s remains were burned at stake after beheading. The second person to be executed was young farmer´s son from Utajärvi called Paavo Ojala who faced the death penalty in 1766. Paavo was executed in an area called Teilikangas (today Teerikangas) and from this on, every execution in the Muhos region took place at Teilikangas. The site was situated on the border of two villages, Muhos and Utajärvi. Ojala´s sentence also involved the burning of, not only his, but also the remains of a few animals that were involved in his crime. In 1774 the third convicted and executed was former soldier, Pekka Lehtola. His sentence involved the practice of using a so-called execution wheel for the display of his earthly remains. Shortly after, in the year of 1776, 24-year-old farmer´s son-in-law Erkki Kärnä/Kekkonen was executed, and lastly in 1802 Mikko Tiikkaja from Utajärvi. 


Relaying on research data from Muhos, this representation aims to discuss the socially liminal status of a person sentenced to death and executed. How these people were treated after, but also just before and at their time of death? What makes death by execution such a special occurrence and what was the meaning and reasoning behind these occurrences from the local society's point of view and what kind of role did the actual site of execution play in all this?


Marika Hyttinen & Tuuli Matila: Father’s cup – attachment and material culture among working-class families during the postwar era in the city of Oulu, Finland

This paper examines emotions, material culture and a working-class community who lived in a neighborhood called Vaakunakylä, in the city of Oulu, Finland during the post-war reconstruction period (1947-1987). Vaakunakylä was established by German military forces in WWII to serve as a military housing site. After the war their empty military barracks were sold to people who were left homeless by the bombings. During the post-war decades the community members were rumored to have social problems and even a criminal way of life - the neighborhood was labelled disreputable, restless, and unsecure. The archaeological record found from the site tells a very different story about the Vaakunakylä community. According to the archaeological material most of the families lived a peaceful and stable life cherishing their family members and homes. Instead of a restless and unstable social environment, the loving and caring relationship between parents and children is visible in material culture.


Erika Ruhl: Hearts on our Sleeves: Emotions and Agency in Pre-Modern Finnish Burial Clothing

Emotions - and emotional expressions - do not exist in a vacuum, but are mitigated and impacted by local beliefs and practices. This paper explores the difference between private and public grief at the loss of a loved one, ways local beliefs, religious practices, and community expectations guide the mourning process, and how these practices are seen through pre-modern northern Finnish burial clothing.


The often-contradictory nature of culturally prescribed versus individually enacted behavior examines the juxtaposition of what mourners “should” do with how individuals navigate and enact emotions through their own agency. As such, local culture, beliefs, religious practices, and expectations are not a form of emotional suppression, but rather present a variety of ways individuals might express grief in the mourning process; as individuals navigate these expectations, they in turn impact the prescribed cultural scripts, and reshape expectations for future mourners.


The garments considered here, some clothing worn in life, others hastily crafted for burial, provide a culturally-constructed and individually-navigated way to express very real emotions - in this case, often grief and sadness. As such, this paper considers individuals’ emotional attachment to items, which often hold greater value than the mere sum of their parts. In doing so, this paper introduces questions about the emotional experience of preparing a loved one for burial vis-á-vis cultural expectations and individual agency.

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