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

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

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

The Untamala Archaeology Centre

The Untamala Archaeology Centre is an archaeological exhibition centre founded by the National Board of Antiquities. The centre is situated in the midst of southwestern Finland’s rural landscape and by the famous iron-age graveyard.The Untamala Archaeology Centre distributes knowledge about archaeological cultural heritage and cultural landscape and promotes their conservation and management. The centre offers a var ...
Founded: 0-600 AD | Location: Laitila, 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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.