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.
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.