Photo of the month

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

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

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

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

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