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.
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.