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Photo of the month

As the World Breastfeeding Week 2021 draws toward its end, for Tiina, writing about the past breastfeeding practices in Finland is most productive at the patio of her favorite café (minding the corona safety measures). And also, happy Oulu Pride 2021! 

December 2021

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Artist Vilho Lampi (1898–1936) was born in Oulu and lived most of his life in a nearby village of Liminka. The scenery of this region is spacious and bright with fields spreading as far as you can see. In addition to the landscape, Vilho Lampi painted portraits of himself and children. A collection of his paintings are on display at Oulu Museum of Art Vilho Lampi: The Great Expanse exhibition (13.11.2021–28.8.2022).


Children in Lampi’s potraits were the children of his brothers, sisters, and neighbours. Often Lampi has captured emotions on the serious faces of the children. The painting with a father and his three children depicts Lampi’s brother Martti by his wife's. Five-day-old twins are not in this painting that was the last one Lampi painted. Lampi committed suicide in March 1936 by jumping in the currents of Oulujoki River.



At Mother’s Graveside (1935–1936), Oulu Art Museum

Maija and Rose (1932), Oulu Art Museum

Seated Girl (1932), Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum

Girl with Doll (1932), Kaleva Media

all photos by S. Lipkin

November 2021

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Tonight Tiina V. and Sanna lit a candle for the memory of the fallen soldiers of the Finnish War. Today, November 29 in 1808, the last group of soldiers left the town of Oulu for the northbound march that ended up to be the final march for hundreds of soldiers. Ten of them crossed the Oulujoki River and died out of diseases and cold and among these was the subject of our research, 17-year-old young man who was buried with his comrates in a massgrave. In the 1950s the massgrave was found at the site and the memorial stone in the image was erected. Tonight it was cold, about -16°C, but not as cold as it was 213 years ago when it was -40°C. Nevertheless we froze our hands while taking the photo, and could empathise with the poorly clad soldiers.

October 2021

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In October, the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP) annual conference was hosted by Associate Professor Siân Halcrow of the University of Otago, New Zealand. Even though we regret not being able to travel there, Sanna Lipkin and Tiina Väre had a possibility to give a presentation at the conference via Zoom. October 2021 photo is based on their paper.


In autumn 2020, we studied with Famous Five (See September 2020 photo) burials in a private chapel in Kourla, Vihti, South Finland. The chapel was built on the lands of the Kourla manor that was at the time owned by Toll family. The chapel and the chamber below were built by Charlotta Swedenmarck who was at the time one of the few female poets and play writers in Sweden. The first person buried in the chapel was Swedenmark’s husband Carl Fredrick Toll who was removed to the chapel once it was completed in 1785. Later Swedenmarck herself and other members of the Toll family were buried in the chapel.  


One of the individuals buried in the chapel is Charlotta Björnram who was married with Carl Henric Toll, grandson of Charlotta Swedenmarck’s husband. Björnram died in October 1808 at the age of 24. In the church records, the cause death was marked as inflammation. She was buried about five and a half months after her death. 


Her remains were mummified and we observed a skull of a fetus developed until the early weeks of third trimester protruding out of the obstetric canal while only some disarticulated fetal remains were found inside the pelvic cavity. The underdeveloped state of the fetus suggests a case of partial postmortem fetal extrusion (read the report on the finding here). This rare event means a protrusion of the dead fetus out of the body of a mother who for one reason or another died during pregnancy. 


In 1808 and 1809 Sweden and Russia were in war that took place in Finland. As the result of this Finnish War, Finland was no longer a province of Sweden but became an independent Grand Dutchy of Finland in Russia. Charlotta Björnram died in October while the Swedish troops were withdrawing northwards. The soldiers carried a variety of battlefield diseases such as dysentery and typhoid fever, and even though southern Finland was not affected by the war as seriously as the northern parts of the country, due to diseases also in the south the mortality rate increased significantly. 


As an event, the war was feared for, and presumably caused psychological stress for the whole family. Charlotta Björnram’s husband was a cavalry officer and took part to the fights. The Toll family, as the most noble families, sent their sons to military schools. Carl Henric Toll was only three years old when he was enlisted as a sergeant in Tavastehus Regiment. 


Child’s death was considered as a natural part of the course of life. However, the death of young adults was more difficult to accept. It’s possible that the family mourned in addition to mother also the unborn baby. At the time of her death Charlotta Björnram’s and Carl Henric Toll’s son, Johan Cristoffer, was one year old. It is likely that the Kourla manor was the childhood living environment for Johan Cristoffer, and if so, the burial chapel for his mother and other relatives dominated his everyday scenery. The chapel was along the road and thus a public manifestation of the family’s way of memorising their dead, but at the same time a place where the family members could remember their loved ones privately in the shed of the garden.  

September 2021


After the summer holidays, we have been busy with writing, editing, and conferences. We have finalised several manuscripts for peer review and send a co-edited book about unusual burials for production. In late August we hosted the North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles (NESAT) and in early September we gave presentations and hosted a session at the 27th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA). For conferencing details, take a look at Research Activities page.

We have also been a lot outdoors enjoying the warm autumn, empty beaches, northern lights and lingonberry picking in the forests.

August 2021


July 2021


Sanna's family's one favourite place to visit at Tampere is the Amuri Museum of Workers' Housing that presents homes of fictional workers from the 19th century until the 1970s. Starting from the early 19th century Tampere was an industrial centre of Finland. One of the first factories established in the town was Finlayson. The owner Scottish James Finlayson managed also an orphanage that functioned with the principle of educating children through work. Employing children was considered as charity; children did not have to beg or live in poverty. Many children moved to Tampere from the countryside and worked in the factories that played an important role in establishment of women's and children's industrial labour in Finland. In addition to working long hours, 10 to 12 per day, children attended school. 


Living conditions were poor and crowded. Four families, each living in one room, shared a kitchen. Families often had subtenants. There were several communal saunas that were warmed up every Saturday. Amuri received its name from Amur Land in Siberia where Finnish immigrants were moving during the late 19th century. Amuri was considered as a distant residential area far away from the factories and the town centre.    

June 2021

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This memorial is located along a road in Toppila neighbourhood in Oulu. In the 1950s, it was erected to memorize a mass grave of about 10 soldiers of the Finnish war (1808–1809) who were unearthed at the site while digging a ditch for a fence. One of the soldiers was a young individual whose life and death we have been studying. During this year the monograph we have been writing since the autumn (see photo of the month August 2020) will leave for peer review. Hopefully we will be able to share more about our research soon.

May 2021


Archaeological textile finds and textile craft are central within our project. This month we have a small exhibition at the Oulu City Library displaying research results on prehistorical and medieval textile finds in Finland. Few of the oldest fabric finds in Finland have been found in Oulu in a cairn burial at Välikangas cemetery (Kaakkuri neighborhood). The burial dates to the Late Roman Iron Age (AD 200–400) in Finnish chronology. Six small pieces of 2/1 twill with a spin pattern were found on top of one another and wrapped around a bracelet.  


The exhibition presents also our first results of µCT-scanning of textiles from Valmarinniemi (Keminmaa). We have studied a tablet woven band and a cotton textile found from burials dating to the turn of the 14th to 15th centuries. Garment fragments from Valmarinniemi suggest that they were originally produced in the Baltic region. A rare piece of cotton suggests far reaching trading contacts to Asia. The exhibition displays the past dyeing methods and materials as well as the most common textile techniques. Along with nålbound mittens and woven aprons we present the first reconstructions of the Valmarinniemi bands.


The exhibition was produced by Sanna Lipkin, Krista Vajanto, Hanna Puolakka and Ville Karjalainen.

April 2021


This month our long waited thematic issue “Historical Burials in Europe: Natural Mummification, Burial Customs, and Ethical Challenges" was published in Historical Archaeology. The issue offers a range of new perspectives to research on historical mummified human remains. This collection provides examples of seamless interdisciplinarity where natural scientific methods have produced meaningful cultural and social knowledge of past human beings.


“Introduction” by Sanna Lipkin and Titta Kallio-Seppä presents research at the University of Oulu of burials situated below the floorboards of Finnish churches. It examines the ethical and legal dimensions of research on mummified human remains. An article by Tiina Väre, Sanna Lipkin, Krista Vajanto and Jenni Suomela examine the ways vicar Nikolaus Rungius’s (ca. 1560–1629) health and lifestyle highlight his status as a vicar, and this status is visible in his burial and funerary clothing. Sanna Lipkin, Sirpa Niinimäki, Saara Tuovinen et al. study the CT scannings of four infant coffins. The age and, in two cases, sex of the remains are estimated. Socialization through gender is apparent in this collection. The article explores care, dedication, and innocence visible in newborn and infant burials. 


Sanna Lipkin, Annemari Tranberg, Krista Vajanto and Jenni Suomela study preservation and decay: interplay among burial clothes, human remains, insects and rodents in Finnish postmedieval burials including mummified remains. Paper by Titta Kallio-Seppä and Annemari Tranberg reveals townscape odors in early modern Sweden. Oulu suffered from smells of wet areas and decomposing bodies in churches. Town’s “smellscape” had to change to reflect the ideas related to the Age of Enlightenment.  Jeremy W. Pye explores the impacts of parasites in human life. These have caused death, abandonment of settlements and affected the outcome of wars. Pye outlines laboratory methods used to identify evidence of parasites in archaeological samples. 


Finally, Harold Mytum considers the opportunities, practices and ethics of the study of historical mummified individuals in Europe as well as the diverse and nuanced evidence that offers unique potential to consider how the deceased was experienced over time.

March 2021


We have now lived a socially quiet life for a year. We have seen each other in person only occasionally, but it does not mean our interaction with colleagues would have decreased. In March we started our Fragile Minds lecture series and so far the audience has been pleased with the lectures they have heard. Virtual tools have enabled participation from home in different parts of the world.

Within this online lecture series, the speakers study fragility of human mind and wellbeing with a wide time span from the 18th century to post-WW II. Definitions and manifestations of mental illnesses are culturally bound, but the contributions look on how emotional wellbeing and vulnerability associated with disempowerment may be described in different cultures and contexts. Lectures discuss poverty, illness, madness, mental disorders, criminal behaviour, and suicide as well as prerequisites of evolvement of social bonds through historical, archaeological, and osteological sources. Contributions provide new insights to generational and intergenerational effects of conflicts and traumatic everyday life experiences during both childhood and adulthood. Additionally, the contributions discuss resilience, adaption, societal developments, and empowerment arisen from the traumatic events and experiences, but also outcomes of social constrain and political exploitation.


You are welcome to join us for the remaining lectures. The program and registration links can be found from these webpages.

February 2021


Tiina is weighing the dentin collagen she extracted from archaeological first molars for the Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses. As permanent first molars are developed during infancy and dentin is incremental tissue, their stable isotope composition can tell about the diet of that time. Ideally, it comprised of mothers milk which can be detected from the stable isotope signals.

January 2021


The first photo of the month this year is an illustrative picture of micro-computed tomography (µCT) image of a fabric we have found from a burial site. µCT is a well-established, non-destructive three-dimensional imaging method to study microstructures in different tissues. This method allows us to see a three-dimensional model of the imaged sample and even see inside the sample. We have been using this method to image the fabrics found from archaeological sites to study the past textile methodologies.

December 2020

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The December photo represents our research at multiple levels. The little church is standing behind Oulu Cathedral (previously Sofia Magdalena's Church) and is called Little Sofia's Church. It is made based on a drawing depicting the first church of Oulu built in 1590s. During summer, the church is open for children to play inside.


The memorial facing the church is dedicated to inhabitants of Oulu who were buried within the church yard until 1780s. During years 1996 and 2002 extensive rescue excavations were conducted and about 500 burials were unearthed. As an archaeology student, Sanna participated these excavations and decided that some day she will study the well-preserved textiles. Human remains were later reburied under the memorial. Funerary textiles and other items form the burials are catalogued under both the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum's and National Hertitage Agency's collections. Today, these items play a crucial role in our research. 

Photo: Sanna Lipkin

November 2020


November 20 is World Children's Day. Sanna asked her 7-year-old son to take his legos and build something related to archaeology. This is a cemetery, both for humans and dogs. One of the dogs is a ghost. The bird sitting on the gravestone wanted to be close to their owner and moved to the cemetery. There are two Christmas trees at the cemetery.

Photos: Sebastian Kaarlela & Sanna Lipkin

October 2020

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The photo of the month shows members of our research group working in the field. During our careers we have excavated and conducted field work in different countries including Italy, Czech Republic, and the United States.


In September 2020, Sanna Lipkin conducted a web survey with Tiina Äikäs (University of Oulu) and Tuija Kirkinen (University of Helsinki) about equality in Finnish archaeology. They received 77 answers, which is a good amount in a rather small group of archaeologists in Finland. Finnish society is often described as equal, the Finnish women were given their right to vote and stand for election first in Europe in 1906, and currently we have young female ministers, including prime minister Sanna Marin. Gender equality is still a problem; both ministers and archaeologists are belittled as “girls”.


In Finland, the academic career of women is influenced by gender discrimination. Most of the doctoral, post doctoral and senior researchers are women, but the majority of the permanent posts at the universities are held by men. The survey revealed that field work is experienced as a world of male “hero archaeologists”. Especially in the past, alcohol consumption triggered bad behaviour and women were given merely the role of coffee making. However, the younger generations were considered to be nicer to one another. Nevertheless, the role of women at the field is sometimes downplayed: women are thought of as being weak, not strong enough for physical work, and they do not know how to use the equipment. But sexism towards men also exists.


Generally, the women who answered the questionnaire thought that their skills were questioned, and they felt they need to work harder to achieve as much as men have achieved. The survey revealed that little has changed since 2010, the last time the issue was studied. It is too short period for clear structural changes, but for individual's career it is very long. However, equality in Finnish archaeology may be considered to be in the state of change. Based on the survey, the young have internalised the premise of intersectional feminism. The results of the survey will be published in Finnish in Muinaistutkija-journal by the end of this year.

September 2020


At the lands of Kourla estate in Vihti (Southern Finland) is located a private chapel that one of the first Scandinavian female poets and the only Gustavian female playwright Catharina Charlotta Swedenmarck (ca. 1744­–1813) had built after his husband’s Carl Fredrik Toll’s (1718–1784) death. On a sunny and warm late September weekend a group of the Famous Five mummy researchers from the University of Oulu arrived at the estate with hopes of finding mummies inside the chapel. Indeed, they found a few. It turned out that at least nine coffins were once laid below the floor of the chapel. The members of our project are interested in finding out how the deceased were prepared for burial. We also collected stable isotope samples to detect breastfeeding practices and food consumption patterns as well as aDNA samples to investigate pathogens. From the perspective of our project, particularly interesting were the burials of an adolescent and a woman who had died while giving birth.


Famous Five: Tiina Väre, Annemari Tranberg, Sanna Lipkin, Titta Kallio-Seppä and Juho-Antti Junno

Photos: Sanna Lipkin (2020)

August 2020


After a well-deserved summer vacation, we started our busy autumn with an excursion to the battle sites and monuments of the Finnish War (1808–1809). The excursion is related to our research project of a young soldier who died at the war. Now it is time to write a multi-authored monograph. During our journey, we visited the memorial monuments at Revonlahti and Siikajoki where the Swedish army won the first battles in April 1808. The Convention of Olkijoki (November 19th) was signed inside the red cottage. According to the convention, Oulu needed to be surrendered to the Russians by November 29th and Kemi by December 13th, meaning that the Swedish army had to retreat from Finland. As result of the war, Finland became an independent Grand Duchy of Russia.


The retreating proved harsh for the sick, weakened troops wandering in the snow without proper winter-gear. Many would not make it. About two hundred soldiers died and about 1000 soldiers were left behind on the way from Oulu to Tornio. One of these soldiers, the young soldier who’s remains we have studied, was buried in a mass grave just north from Oulu.


The Finnish War between 1808–1809 was part of the larger Napoleonic Wars in Europe. In July 7th 1807 at Tilsit, Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon I of France signed a peace treaty and allied against Great Britain. They pressured other European countries to join the Continental System that cut both diplomatic and trade relations with the country. The king of Sweden, Gustaf IV Adolf, did not want join the System. As part of the alliance between France and Russia, Russia was delegated the responsibility of convincing Sweden to join the Continental System and Napoleon's embargo against Great Britain, despite Sweden’s alliance with Great Britain. Although Russia was not interested in Finland, in February 1808 Russia invaded Finland in an attempt to force Sweden switch sides.

June 2020


During the late 19th century a phenomenon of child unemployment was experienced in Finland. Due to advances in manufacture procedures and tightened laws that introduced age limits for the employed, less children were employed at the factories. This image is taken at the exhibition “Finlayson 200 – a factory that became a brand” displayed at Vapriikki museum centre at Tampere. July was a holiday month for our researchers but it was interesting to learn about the history of the fabric mill and their workers. The exhibition gave an aspect to two of our research interests: fabric production and children as fabric producers or mill workers. The mill was established in 1820 by a Scot, James Finlayson, who introduced child labour in Finland. Offering work for children was considered as charity. Some of the children were less than 10 years old, and the working conditions were poor. The factory was dusty and noisy and the adult coworkers could be mean towards children. At the exhibition, a model of the factory building truthfully displays the workers performing their duties.


Photo: Sanna Lipkin (2020)  

June 2020


Both in January and June we were busy building museum exhibitions at the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum. Exhibitions represent our research results on church burials in Northern Finland. You may visit these exhibitions at the museum until August 30, 2020.

The exhibitions are called:

Buried with care – archaeological research in Northern Finland 

Changing church burial traditions

In Finland, burying the deceased under the church floors was customary from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century. The practice eventually ended through the order of the emperor of Russia in 1822. A burial place beneath the church was highly valued. As a result, the space under the floor was full of chamber tombs and coffins in many churches. Child mortality was high until the late 19th century; families had to make small coffins quite often. Many of the coffins under church floors are of infants and young children.

Based on archaeological research conducted in Oulu, Hailuoto, Ii, Tornio and Keminmaa, Buried with Care presents the burial practices as well as individuals buried under the churches between the 14th and 19th centuries. When an infant or a young child died, the dead was buried in a coffin beautifully decorated with white fabric. The deceased often held flowers made of silk and beads in their hands. The archaeological materials recovered from under Oulu Cathedral and the old church of Hailuoto show both care over the dead child and a sense of peaceful rest.

The exhibition explores various sensory experiences linked to death. The smell of the dead body was often masked using scented and antibacterial plants, herbs and sawdust. The deceased were placed in their coffins to wait for the Resurrection. Along with adults with marks of their diseases and the personal items that accompanied them in their coffins, the exhibition shows how children were regarded as important members of their communities. For instance, a young woman excavated from a medieval burial place in Hamina in Ii was found wearing a cross of eastern origin.

The exhibitions are based on research funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation and the Academy of Finland conducted at the University of Oulu. The exhibitions are produced in collaboration with archaeologists from the University of Oulu, the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum, the Museum of Tornio Valley and the Kemi Historical Museum. It is the third instalment of a series of exhibitions. The first two exhibitions were displayed in Kemi (Rungius, Buried in the Church) and Tornio (Anna, Buried in the Church) in 2019

May 2020


In late May, when after being back to schools for two weeks, the Finnish school children started their summer vacation after coronavirus spring. This statue at Ainolan puisto (Oulu) decided also to take his hat off and launch the boat.

April 2020


Vappu, the 1st of May, is specifically important celebration for children and students. Then you may dress nicely and blow balloons. University students dress in work uniforms, get drunk and go for picnic in the parks. In Oulu archaeology students wear brown uniforms, they won't get too dirty if you roll in the ground. This is a selection of pics of our researchers, Tiina Väre, Saara Tuovinen, Sanna Lipkin and Tiina Kuokkanen, celebrating Vappu few years ago.

March 2020


In early March Tiina visited Havana for the Antropos 2020 conference and made it home to quarantine just barely before things got serious.

February 2020


At the moment Tiina Kuokkanen is working as a visiting researcher at Centre for Textile Research in University of Copenhagen. While concentrating on early modern textile making she has also visited local museums to gain new perspective to her studies. This photo is from Rosenborg Castle, where you can see Christian IV's (1577–1648) toilet.

January 2020


Last year marked a change for Tiina Väre's little family. In late September, they took off and moved to Stockholm. As a visiting researcher at the Archaeological Research Laboratory of the University of Stockholm, for the past three months, Tiina has been preparing collagen samples for the analysis of the stable isotope ratios in archaeological dentin. As our teeth preserve the information of our childhood diets, the mentioned analyses enable examining the past breastfeeding practices. Extraction of collagen requires executing several work stages, but luckily working at the lab can be very exciting. 

Photo: Tiina Väre

December 2019


This late 19th century doll fragment was found at Hämeenlinna (Varikonniemi) couple of decades ago. Similar dolls have been found also elsewhere in Finland. Small white porcelain dolls have been connected with the story of Frozen Charlotte, a tale about a girl who did not dress properly for a sleigh ride while travelling to a New Year's ball, and froze to death. Even though the dolls are white as death, it has been contested, if the Victorians themselves considered the dolls as corpses. It is even more unlikely that children in Finland would have reproduced an American tale in their plays. Nevertheless, it would be tempting to assume that, similarly as in Northern America, these dolls were used for playing funerals also in Finland. When it was found, the 19th-century finds were not appreciated as they are today, and the doll does not have any inventory number, but belongs to a private collection.

Photo: Antti Kaarlela (2019)

November 2019

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In December 24th 1913 at Calumet, Michigan, around 70 people, most of them children, were suffocated in a staircase after unidentified person had shouted ”fire”. Happy event where santa was giving presents to children ended tragically. Today, Sanna Lipkin is studying the memorization of these children, many of them with Finnish origin.

Photo: Sanna Lipkin (2018)

October 2019

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For the last month Saara Tuovinen has been studying the population of parishes of Northern Ostrobothnia. The Swedish Crown wanted to receive detailed information about births, marriages, and deaths of each parish. The priests also were told to inform other kinds of incidents. Here is an example from Hailuoto where two great storms caused flooding both 30th of October and 12th of November 1752.


Photo: Saara Tuovinen

Oulun maakunta-arkisto, Hailuodon seurakunnan arkisto, IIDf:1 Väkilukutaulukot, Hailuodon väkilukutaulukot 1749–1775

September 2019

Last summer Tiina Kuokkanen studied the archive of the Varjakka saw mill (1900–1928). She tried to find information especially about two houses that have been located on the Kukonkatu and Finninkatu streets. Information on workers' housing can be found, for example, in this order on rent and firewood.

Photo: Tiina Kuokkanen


Uleå Oy:n Varjakan höyrysahan arkisto, Sekalaiset luettelot 1927–1929

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