Iron Age

History of Finland between 500 BC - 1149

The Iron Age in Finland is considered to last from c.500 BC until c.1150 AD when the Swedish Conquest of Finland was complete and written history in Finland (the Middle Ages) begins. There is no evidence of any form of writing in Finland, runes or otherwise, prior to the Swedish Conquest and all evidence regarding Finnish history prior to Swedish involvement is based on archaeological findings and the scant records of contemporaneous third parties. The three main dialectal groups of Finnish-speakers, (proper-)Finns, Tavastians and Karelians probably emerged during the Iron Age. The archaeological culture of the Åland Islands had a more prominent Swedish character than the rest of the country, possibly suggesting Scandinavian settlement.

The earliest findings of imported iron blades and local iron working appear in 500 BC. From about 50 AD, there are indications of a more intense long-distance exchange of goods in coastal Finland. Inhabitants exchanged their products, presumably, mostly furs, for weapons and ornaments with the Balts and the Scandinavians as well as with the peoples along the traditional eastern trade routes. The existence of richly furnished burials, usually with weapons, suggests that there was a chiefly elite in southern and western parts of the country. Hillforts spread over most of southern Finland at the end of the Iron and early Medieval Age. There is no commonly accepted evidence of early state formations in Finland, and the presumedly Iron Age origins of urbanisation are contested.

In the early Iron Age a word similar to Finns appeared for the first time in a written document when Tacitus mentions Fenni in his Germania. However, it is unclear if these have anything to do with the present Finnish people. The first Scandinavian documents mentioning a "land of the Finns" are two runestones: (Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582 †), Gotland with the inscription finlandi (G 319 M) dating from the 11th century.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 500 BC and 1149 in Finland

Lieto Old Castle

There has been a fortified hill in Lieto (“Liedon Vanhalinna”) from the prehistoric age. According to excavations, the castle has been in use in the Late Bronze Age (1500-500 BC), in Middle Iron Age (500-700 AD, contested) and in the Middle Ages up to the end of the 14th century, when it was replaced by the "new castle" in Turku harbour.During the first crusade (ca. 1155) to Finland Swedish army fought heavy b ...
Founded: ca. 1000-1370 | Location: Lieto, Finland

Rikalanmäki

Rikalanmäki was one of the most remarkable Bronze and Iron Age towns in Finland. According legends, It was a very wealthy trading centre. The heyday of Rikalanmäki was in 11th and 12th centuries when Vikings and foreign merchants exchanged metals and weapons to fur from inner Finland. There are evidences of indirect trade connections even to the Arabic countries. According the legend Birger Jarl landed to the Ri ...
Founded: ca. 900-1100 AD | Location: Salo, Finland

Luistari Burial Ground

Luistari site is the largest Iron Age burial ground in Finland. There has been a place of residence already in the Bronze Age, but the remains have been destroyed later when the burial ground was built.Archaeologists have investigated over 1300 adults and children graves from the Luistari site. Based on excavations burials were made between years 500 AD-1200 AD. Archaeologists have found several remains of clothing, jewel ...
Founded: 500 - 1200 | Location: Eura, Finland

Sulkava Hill Fort

The hill fort is located to the rock hill with high cliffs in Pisamalahti. The hill fort rises about 55 meters above Enovesi lake.First record of the fort dates back to the year 1561, but it was probably built in the Iron or Middle Ages. According one hypothesis it was built by Carelian people against conquerors from Tavastia (Häme) historical province. There is a 120 meters long and 2-3 meters high stone wall on the ...
Founded: 1100-1300 | Location: Sulkava, Finland

Borgboda Hillfort

Borgboda (also called Borgberget), located in Borge hill, Saltvik, is the largest hillfort in Åland with an area of total three hectares. When it was in use, around 1000 AD, the hill was surrounded by water on three sides. Steep hill was enforced with walls of stone and timber, remains of which can still be seen, along with remains of a few buildings. It is believed that Borgboda was never permanently inhabited, but ...
Founded: Viking age | Location: Saltvik, Finland

Levänluhta

Levänluhta is a swampy source known for mysterious prehistoric findings. According archaeological excavations about hundred people have been buried to the former lake of Levänluhta in the Iron Age. Archaeologists have also found several remains of bronze and silver jewelry and tools.There are remains of buried children, elderly and animals of different ages. The human bones of Levänluhta are dated to the 30 ...
Founded: 300-700 B.C. | Location: Storkyro, Finland

Päijälä Hill Fort

Päijälä hill fort is an Iron Age hill fort by the Lake Saaresjärvi in Kuhmoinen. The abundance of artefacts found at the Päijälä hill fort makes it nationally significant. The fort is thought to have been used since at least the 12th century. Kuhmoinen was then a borderland between Häme and Carelian tribes who fought over the ownership of wilderness areas. The fort hill rises 25 me ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kuhmoinen, Finland

Nabbergen Cairns

The cairn graveyard in Nabbergen has some 80 establishments, spread over a ca 300 x 200 m big area. The establishments can be dated to about the birth of Christ. Walk from the village of Käringsund toward Hummelvik Camping and then walk along Hummelviksstigen, past the camp site, and you will see a sign that says “Rösegravfält” in the third curve.
Founded: 0 CE | Location: Eckerö, Finland

Päivääniemi Burial Ground

Päivääniemi in Lempäälä is an Iron Age burial ground consisting of around 130 small mounds. The ground was in use from 300 to 1000 AD, but most of findings date from 600-800 AD. The largest is so-called Kuninkaanhauta (King"s Grave) where has been buried a local chief. The fine sword was founded from the grave in excavations.
Founded: 300 AD | Location: Lempäälä, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.

The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.

The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.