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Antiquity Vol 78 No 301 September 2004

First Preboreal inland site in North Scandinavia discovered in Finnish Lapland

Tuija Rankama & Jarmo Kankaanpää

An international team of archaeologists has confirmed the discovery of the first inland site of the Preboreal phase of the Komsa Culture in northern Finland. The volunteer team directed by Jarmo Kankaanpää and Tuija Rankama included researchers and students from the universities of Helsinki, Oulu, Uppsala, Tromsų, and Oslo (Kankaanpää & Rankama 2004).

Rankama and Kankaanpää originally discovered the site, Utsjoki 226 Vetsijärvi 7 Sujala, in a privately organised survey in 2002 (Rankama & Kankaanpää 2003; Rankama in press). It lies on the southern shore of Lake Vetsijärvi in the uninhabited eastern fell area of Utsjoki borough, northernmost Finnish Lapland (Figure 1), some 60 kilometres inland from the Barents Sea coast at Varangerfjord. The lithic artefacts collected at the Sujala site during the 2002 survey consisted mostly of raw materials that were not native to the region and included fragments of large blades. These facts suggested that the people who inhabited the site derived from groups living on the Barents Sea coast during the Preboreal Period.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Location of Utsjoki Borough and Lake Vetsijärvi. Click to enlarge.
Figure 2 (Click to view)

Figure 2: Excavation in progress at the Sujala site. Click to enlarge.

A test excavation was conducted at the Sujala site between June 27 and July 3, 2004 (Figure 2). The excavation team located two clusters of artefacts about 200 metres from each other. Eight 1 x 1 metre test squares were excavated in and around each cluster. Most of the finds lay within the first five centimetres below the turf layer. The small size of the clusters and the thinness of the find layer suggest that the site represents the remains of short visits by small groups of people.

The excavation yielded c. 360 lithic artefacts, most of which were made of a green/light brown chert native to the North Norwegian coast but not found in the inland region in Finland. They include two exhausted blade cores (Figure 3). One (Figure 3:1) is a single platform core, three sides of which have been used for blade production. The other (Figure 3:2) is a one-sided blade core with two opposing platforms and acute platform angles.

A small tanged point (Figure 4) was also found. It is 42.1 millimetres long and is made from a blade of the same raw material as the cores. The tang is bifacially flaked and the tip is retouched on the ventral side. The right side is also slightly retouched. The thickness is so even that it is difficult to judge which end of the point was the proximal end of the original blade.

The assemblage also includes at least 90 fragments of large blades, many of which are more than 2 centimetres in width (Figure 5:2). Some of them show secondary retouch, for example backing (Figure 5:3). The proximal ends bear evidence of careful trimming of the platform edge (Figure 5:1) and some of the platform remnants have a lip on the ventral side. Several platform rejuvenation flakes (Figure 5:4-5) are also included, bearing evidence of in situ knapping activity. The assemblage has not yet been fully analysed and further details of the technology are not available.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Two blade cores from the Sujala site.Click to enlarge.
Figure 4

Figure 4: Tanged point from the Sujala site. Click to enlarge.

The large blade technology and the tanged point, in combination with the dominant raw material, place the site firmly within Phase I of the North Norwegian Mesolithic, i.e., within the Preboreal Period between 10 000 and 9 000 BP (see Olsen 1994; Woodman 1993; 1999). Parallels of the assemblage in Southern Norway indicate that it is closely affiliated with the Late Palaeolithic Ahrensburg Culture of Northwestern Europe and should be dated to the first half of the Preboreal (see Fuglestvedt 2003; Prøsch-Danielsen & Høgestøl 1995; Skar & Coulson 1987).

Although Preboreal inland sites are known from Southern Norway (e.g. Bang-Andersen 1990), the Sujala site is the first indication of inland activity by the earliest inhabitants of Northern Norway. It will force us to review our ideas about the adaptation of the coastal population and refocus our survey activities. Funding is being sought for further fieldwork at the Sujala site and its surroundings.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Blade fragments (1-3) and core tablets (4-5) from the Sujala site.


  • BANG-ANDERSEN, S. 1990 The Myrvatn Group, a Preboreal Find-Complex in Southwest Norway. In P. M. Vermeersch & P. Van Peer (eds.), Contributions to the Mesolithic in Europe, pp. 215-226. Leuven University Press. Leuven.
  • FUGLESTVEDT, I. 2003 Enculturating the Landscape beyond Doggerland. In L. Larsson, H. Kindgren, K. Knutsson, D. Loeffler & A. Åkerlund (eds.), Mesolithic on the Move, pp. 103-107. Oxbow Books. Oxford.
  • KANKAANPÄÄ, J. & RANKAMA, T. 2004 Lake Vetsijärvi with a kayak - and without. Paper presented at the 22nd Nordic Archaeology Conference, University of Oulu, August 18th-23rd, 2004.
  • OLSEN, B. 1994 Bosetning og samfunn i Finnmarks forhistorie. Universitetsforlaget. Oslo.
  • PRØSCH-DANIELSEN, L. & HØGESTØL, M. 1995 A coastal Ahrensburgian site found at Galta, Rennesøy, Southwest Norway. In A. Fischer (ed.), Man and Sea in the Mesolithic. Coastal settlement above and below present sea level. Oxbow Monograph 53:123-130. Oxford.
  • RANKAMA, T. in press Kajakki-inventointia Vetsijärvellä. Kentältä poimittua 6. National Board of Antiquities. Helsinki.
  • RANKAMA, T. & Kankaanpää, J. 2003 Utsjoki Vetsijärvi. Arkeologinen inventointi 18.-23.7.2002. Unpublished manuscript.
  • SKAR, B. & COULSON, S. 1987 The Mesolithic Site Rørmyr II. A re-examination of one of the Høgnipen Sites, SE Norway. Acta Archaeologica 56:167-183.
  • WOODMAN, P. 1993 The Komsa Culture. A re-examination of its position in the Stone Age of Finnmark. Acta Archaeologica 63:57-76.
  • WOODMAN, P. 1999 The Early Postglacial Settlement of Arctic Europe. In E. Cziesla, T. Kersting & S. Pratsch (eds.), Den Bogen spannen... Festschrift für Bernhard Gramsch zum 65. Geburtstag. Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas 20:297-312.

Jarmo Kankaanpää, Ph.D.: Isonpellonkuja 6, FI-02880 Veikkola, FINLAND
Tuija Rankama, Ph.D., docent: As above, or Institute of Cultural Studies, Department of Archaeology, Box 59, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, FINLAND

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