Bronze Age Cattle Teeth and Cremations from a Monumental Burial Cairn in Selkakangas, Finland: New Radiocarbon Dates and Isotopic analysis/Veised, Keskkond Ja Rituaal: Pronksiaegsed Veisehambad Selkakangase Muistsest Kalmevarest Soomes

Article excerpt


A Bronze Age monumental cairn situated at Selkakangas in Viikkala (Nakkila county) in the Satakunta region of western Finland was excavated in 1978-1981 by the Department of Archaeology of the University of Turku (Fig. 1). The cairn was poor in finds: only burnt bone and unburnt cattle teeth were recovered. Burnt bones were analysed and demonstrated to be human in origin (Vormisto 1985, 151 ff.). At the time of the excavations no finds that could date the structure were found, nor was enough organic material obtainable for radiocarbon-dating methods available at that time. During the excavations cattle teeth were interpreted as modern, it was believed that Bronze Age unburnt bone could not have survived in the acid soil of Finland (Kuokkanen & Korkeakoski-Vaisanen 1985; Vormisto 1985, 151 f.). However, the large size of the cairn, the presence of a stone slab cist and the height (30 m) above modern sea level all showed dating to the Early Bronze Age (Salo 1981, 176; Kuokkanen & Korkeakoski-Vaisanen 1985, 10, 15 f.).


New research and new research methods opened further possibilities for investigating the Selkakangas cairn. In 2010 one of the cattle teeth was radiocarbon dated and shown to date to the Early Bronze Age (3086 [+ or -] 30 BP, 1430-1270 cal BC, Hela 2496) (Blauer & Kantanen 2013). This is the oldest radiocarbon dated cattle bone found in mainland Finland to date. As radiocarbon dating of burnt bone became possible, the cremations were also dated.

The living conditions and environment of the cattle in Bronze Age Satakunta were studied using isotopic analyses. This article presents new results from the Selkakangas cairn and these are discussed in the context of general Bronze Age ritu al and economy.

Bronze Age economy

To date only one radiocarbon-dated Stone Age domestic animal bone has been found from the Finnish mainland--a sheep or goat bone from a Late Neolithic Kiukainen culture site in Pietarsaari (3679 [+ or -] 33 BP, 2200-1950 cal BC, Ua-43043) (Blauer & Kantanen 2013). In Aland the oldest dated domestic animal bone dates to approximately the same Late Neolithic period, ca 2000 cal BC (Stora 2000, 70 f.). The signs of the earliest agriculture in Satakunta area date to the late Stone Age (Vuorela 1991, 8 ff.; Vuorela & Hicks 1996), when the first cultivated clearings emerged. The very first signs of cereal cultivation visible in the pollen record in the Satakunta area are from Harjavalta 3480 [+ or -] 90 BP (1920-1700 cal BC, Hel-2404) and Huittinen (1700-1800 cal BC, Hel-357), where the soil was suitable for primitive cultivation (Vuorela 1991, 17 ff.). However, even if sporadic cultivation and one domestic animal bone are associated with Kiukainen culture, site location and faunal analyses indicate increasing reliance on marine resources and especially seal hunting (Zvelebil 1981, 160; Edgren 1998, 112; Blauer & Kantanen 2013).

The following Bronze Age coastal culture seems to be connected both to sea and land. On the one hand, the location of the cairns and cultural connections are sea-oriented and seal hunting still seemed to be an important part of subsistence (Tuovinen 2002, 273 f.; Blauer & Kantanen 2013). On the other hand, this is the period when the first definite signs of cattle and permanent field cultivation emerge and cultivation became a more prominent part of subsistence than before (Holmblad 2010, 159; Blauer & Kantanen 2013). Early Metal period settlement sites in Finland often seem to include either domestic animal bones or seal bones (Blauer & Kantanen 2013). Perhaps there were separate sites for sealing and animal husbandry used by a single population, indicating different environmental requirements for sealing and animal husbandry. However, the presence of two different cultural groups with different subsistence strategies during this period cannot be excluded, as local cultural change has been connected with immigrants from Scandinavian Bronze Age culture (see below). …