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Study tour to Saarijärvi Stone Age Village, Central Finland

Saturday, 27 September, 2014
Leena Lehtinen
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
6 perosns from Kierikki, two guides from Saarijärvi museum

Study tour of Kierikki staff to Saarijärvi Stone Age Village Sat 27 Sept 2014

Participants: Hanni Haapaniemi, Tomi Sassali, Sami Viljanmaa, Antti Palmroos, Joni-Pekka Karjalainen and Leena Lehtinen

Guides: Ph.lic. Eero Muurimäki and carpenter Jyri Kosonen, Saarijärvi museum

The Stone Age Village of Saarijärvi at Summassaari island, a reconstructed Stone Age settlement, is situated in middle Finland, about 350 km north of Helsinki and c. 66 kilometres NW from Jyväskylä (see the map 1). It was founded in the year 1980 and its still part of Saarijärvi museum. In the 80’s it was built six buildings to the village. Models were taken from Finland and nearby areas. In Saarijärvi they have now built and rebuilt in more than 30 years several Neolithic buildings according the increasing knowledge that has been found in Finland and neighboring regions.

This the main reason why we made the excursion is to see how the practical matters with building Stone Age constructions and the scientific background has been solved. It’s also important that it’s in same environmental and climate zone than Kierikki. Then we could discuss how the houses stand our hard winter and different seasons. Also from Saarijärvi we could get a lot of archeological data about constructions and how they were built so our visit was also partly "dialogue with science". Actually we should have made this trip in 2012 when we started to make our straw-roofed row house because the roof constructions are one of the biggest challenges when the reconstructions are built.

In Finland the amount of data and material of the Stone Age dwellings changed radically on the 90’s. Before that in Finland was excavated and reconstructed only few dwellings (Muurimäki 2014). In the beginning of 21th century there were found house pits (or dwelling depressions) altogether from 644 sites and from those 450 were found on the 90’s and almost 150 sites on the 80’s (Pesonen 2001:14).

In September 2014 there were in Saarijärvi Stone Age village altogether seven reconstructed Stone Age houses and a trap path of 15 traps on an area of 24 hectares (see map of the area, picture 1). Detailed information about experiences concerning Stone Age building constructions in Finland and practical experiences in Saarijärvi village can be found in Eero Muurimäki’s lecture in Kierikki OpenArch –conference and his article in the conference publication (Muurimäki 2007; Muurimäki 2014 and We found his presentation in OpenArch -conference so interesting that Kierikki staff decided to see the houses in situ to study for developing our Stone Age village and maybe also to tell about our Finnish experiences to our OA collagues.

Stone Age village is situated on Summassaari island 9 kilometres SE from Saarijärvi town centre. In Summassaari there is also a spa hotel less than a kilometer SW from the stone age village. In Summassaari there are several prehistoric dwellings sites from Mesolithic to early Iron Age and dozens of hunting pits. According to the excavations done Summassaari island there were made two reconstructions near the shore of the village: so-called Rusavierto house and Uimaranta dwelling. In years 1999-2000 excavated and to the year c. 2000 BC dated big Rusavierto house (picture 2) was built in 2001. And to the year c. 3000 BC is dated the Uimaranta hut dwelling (built 2002, picture 3). The other reconstructions were in the upper village, a short way west from the shore.

Rusavierto house is has a log frame foundations like Korvala house in Kierikki. Rusavierto house diameters were 8 x 12 meters. The first construction was demolished this summer and building of the new one was under work during our visit. The roof of the house was planned to build again so that roof sides were extending to the ground. By this new construction the roof was made stronger and the long sides were also protecting the foundations. The assumption was the idea that a relatively steep roof struts cannot remain in place on top of the log without extending to the ground. Stone Age technology didn’t have nails and the roof had to attach with wood and other natural material. In addition, the roof which stretches to the grounds acts also as a thermal insulator .

In autumn 2014 Summassaari Stone Age village there were also reconstructions from Räisälä hut from Karelian Isthmus, Lillberget house from Swedish Lapland, so-called Northern Ostrobothnian house and Estonian so-called Narva house. Räisälä hut was first time built already 1980, the others in 90’s. (see pictures 4-6).

Räisälä hut which was excavated by archaeologist Sakari Pälsi 1915 and the construction he made 1916 was until year 1983 the only reconstruction of Stone Age dwellings in Finland. Pälsi discovered a circle of twelve dark spots on the ground which he interpreted as post holes, nine of them forming a circle about 5 meters by diameter. He made a conclusion that it has not been a conical hut, but a structure where upright posts a support a frame, which for one´s part support slanting poles (Muurimäki 2014). Pälsi said that the structure corresponds the form of dwellings of Giulyaks (Nivkhs) in Northern Sakhalin Island and Amur area in eastern Siberia.

Comb ceramic sites which are very common in Finland, were not known in Sweden until Ove Halén excavated in early 90’s house pits in Lillberget, Kalix, about 50 km west from Finnish border in Swedish Lapland. He found a group of nine rectangular houses, five of them forming a row house. He found coloured soil features which he claimed to be of logs and upright poles supporting the log walls. He also noticed that birch bark was probably used as roofing material. The reconstruction building is more like a log cabin than a hut because the walls are high. In his reconstruction picture the house had a smoke hole in the middle. But if the house has been gabled, as in the later reconstructions in Finland, there is no need for high log walls (Muurimäki 2014).

The Narva hut is covered with birch bark and it was based on ethnographic parallels from Siberia because no organic material was found in the excavation. According to Eero Muurimäki birch bark is surely a very good material if the building is used only in the warm season. It keeps water and moisture out and offers a shelter against wind. If there is a fire inside, it keeps the interior quite warm down to exterior temperatures of 0 C according to our experience. Muurimäki also told that when they were making the Narva hut to Saarijärvi, they were using two kilometres of tree roots for sewing the roof!

The co-called hut of the “North Osthrobotnian” (model from South Lapland) is a combination of moor turf and birch bark. It’s rather deep to the ground built oval gabled house. All roofs in Saarijärvi village were on bark and turf and we studied very eagerly the roof technics especially how the turf was kept on the roofs. There were also roofing felt under the turf to keep the roof durable (picture 7).The traps were very much the same as we have in Kierikki but anyway we got a lot of new ideas also from those.

The strength of Saarijärvi Stone Age village is the a very well lifelike shore area. There are also inside the houses animals, fish, skins, pottery, bows, fish traps, stone axes etc. They have no human guides at village just dolls and the guiding is by tape recorder which both tells about the objects and leads the visitor forward in the path. In one hut there is also a shaman doll whose voice you can hear in the hut from the tape. (see picture 8-10).

Our group was especially interested in constructions technics and experiences Saarijärvi. Other things we found very interesting were a large excavation area for children where a whole class could dig on the same time. Close to the ticket sales cottage there were also a couple of smaller Stone Age houses to kids. There was also a small hut for a multimedia and a place where you could try cut tree with a stone axe.

Summassaari village doesn’t have any museum only a ticket sales cottage with a café and souvenirs. From that there was a path to an early Iron Age site. In the beginning of that path there were signboards about different aspects of Finnish prehistory, also eg. genetics and linguistics. Our group liked also the big board where we could pose as a Stone Age family, see the main image. Sami Viljanmaa was behind camera. (pictures 11-12).

During our visit we also studied the 2,5 kilometers long prehistory path which was following the ridge where is a hunting pit chain of 60 pits and dwelling sites of the islands. Part of the hunting pit system was reconstructed by building hunting fences between them. Also the history of the nature was explained in the sign boards and there will be coming more information about the nature history.

The archaeological contents of Saarijärvi Stone Age village is in the charge of Saarijärvi museum who has had Ph.lic. Eero Muurimäki working there couple of months per year since 1989. And in summer time they have two carpenters working for the buildings. But all guiding services have been outsourced to a local enterprise which having its base in an old house besides the village. Local sports club is in charge of ticket sales, café and cleaning of the area. The village is open from June till mid-August and by appointment in autumn eg. to school classes.

We were very satisfied to our visit and excellent guiding. The visit was very useful and we had an eager conversations and a lot of questions. Saarijärvi Stone Age village is very well and professionally kept and worth of visiting. Saarijärvi museum can be proud of it. We're willing to share our experience with other OA partners and these ideas are put to the practice when we are going to rebuild our bark and turf roofed row house.



Muurimäki 2007 Stone Age Houses in Finland on the bases of
Excavations and experiments.

Muurimäki 2014:
Eero Muurimäki: Experiences concerning Stone age building constructions in Finland. Manuscript to Kierikki OpenArch-conference publication.

Pesonen 2002
Petro Pesonen: Semisubterranean Houses in Finland – a Review. Huts and Houses. Stone Age and Early Metal Age Buildings in Finland. National Board of Antiquities. Jyväskylä 2002.


Map of Finland where municipality of...
Map of Saarijärvi Summassaari Stone Age...
Rebuilding Rusavierto house c. 2000 BC
Uimaranta hut c. 3000 BC
Räisälä hut
Lillberget house on the left, Narva house on...
Northern Osthrobotnian house
Roofing felt under the turf
Dolls on the village shore in front of...
Shaman inside a hut
One of the traps
Sign boards on the path south of village
From left Eero Muurimäki (saarijärvi), Sami...
Narva house
Tools at the Stone Age village shore area