Day 14 Thursday May 21 2009
Today is a holiday in Finland, so no work for us.... but luckily for us we're going on a field trip to see the largest Jatinkirkko (Giant's Church)!!! This is one of the places where Finnish Archaeology was born. It's a good chance for the complicated geologic processes we've been learning about to be explained in context. It's good for everyone to see how the natural moraine areas have been built up by human agency into massive megalithic structures. This is also the reason why we are going to see an area of clear land uplift, which is marked by helpful signs stating the year the area was at the shoreline.
These Jatinkirkko are only found in North Eastern Ostrobotnia. They began as moraines (rocks left by glaciers) and these natural features were modified by humans. These were always placed in prominent points in local topography.
The environment 5000 years ago was seaside. The soil and vegetation was different, there was also an open view of the sea side and was very visible from open water. The cultural system that created this was in a different set of environmental factors; what we see now has been influenced by shoreline displacement (land uplift). It is important to not as archaeologists that what we see now is not what these people saw when living here and creating these structures. In this area, as the Jatinkirkko's construction were dropping of in number, the cairns were continuing to be constructed. Also, regarding to their positioning in the landscape, the Jatinkirkko were always built on the current shore. As time goes on though, cairns were built continuously more and more inland.
The carins nearby were probably looted or excavated (not according to our standards). We can tell this because 'we' (today) would have put the stones back in place and they would also not have had giant gaping holes in their center. More likely they would have been dome-like in the center, as opposed to the concave dips. Though there are some flat ones found. There is a great variability in the morphology of cairns; the people who made them possibly did not see them as the same thing, but we lump them in to one category. A vast majority do not have remains in them. There are theories though that there were once graves within them and over time they disappeared for one reason or another, i.e., these types of remains do not preserve well in the acidic soil, excavation, or also looting.
It is hard to date cairns, but if multiple cairns nearby to each other can be chronologically cross-dated against each other it is possible to see if they were built around the same time period. This is done by analyzing bedrock weathering beneath. Unfortunately, the cairns must be destroyed in order to analyze the rocks underneath.
We were then off to Liminka, were we stopped at a 24 hour gas station and had our lunches. Many of us had the coffee and munkki (doughnut) special for 2 euros!! Not surprisingly the conversation did turn to the military (again).... only after a slight deviation to UFO sightings.... (Just remember, it's almost the end of the second week and we're tired.....)!
At Liminka we stopped at the bird sanctuary, but for a very different reason. We, as budding archaeologists, were there to see the land uplift! Inside the center was an interesting and very beautiful array of artistic photographs on display, mostly of the surrounding wildlife.
High up in the observatory, there was a 360 degree view of the area, and a telescope to make use of. From there you could see clearly a few small houses perched precariously out on the water.
In this area, the land uplifts regularly, but it's rate was much faster in prehistory than it is now. Averaged over a 7,000 year period it rises about 100 meters per century. The flow is much faster closer to the center of the ice mass (glacier).
We walked along the boardwalk and observed each of the signs showing the recorded date that that point was at the shoreline.
In the marsh that we were walking through, it was quite buggy, though there were a few beautiful yellow flowers poking up through the dry reedy grass.
In another observatory there was an explanation of those cabins on the water. They were built on heaps of stones at the estuaries of the Temmes and Liminka, which leavs them safe from times of high water. The cabins are primarily owned and used by fishermen and hunters, as well as winter skiers!
And apparently at some point Greg tried to hijack a boat....