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

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.