Aspects on the Fennoman Paradigm in Finnish Archaeology

By Ahl, Eva | Estonian Journal of Archaeology, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Aspects on the Fennoman Paradigm in Finnish Archaeology


Ahl, Eva, Estonian Journal of Archaeology


Derek Fewster. Visions of Past Glory. Nationalism and the Construction of Early Finnish History. (Studia Fennica Historica, 11.) Helsinki, 2006. 555 pp. ISBN 951-746-787-7

It is a known fact that the science of archaeology was born in the 19th century. Bruce G. Trigger's opus on the worldwide history of archaeology is nowadays part of every curriculum in the subject's studies. Yet there is still a lot to add to the discussion on the role of history and archaeology in building an image of the past. In many countries it seems to be closely linked with the process of .nation building. in the 19th century. It has been stated that the boundaries between the disciplines (the study of ethnology, literature, archaeology, history, etc.) in the 19th century were not as harsh as today. At present there is a great trend in research on nationalism and its various roles, forms and functions in recent centuries. The .rearrangement. of the late 20th and early 21st century Europe and its countries has inspired many studies on questions concerning the influence of images of the past in science, popular culture, as well as on politics. The rise of a vivid interest in a medieval past has also launched issues on the continuity or discontinuity of trends and traditions.

In Finland both archaeologists and historians have taken an interest in the question of nationalism and the birth of cultural studies. In recent years Timo Salminen has discussed the 19th and early 20th century Finnish archaeologists. work and interest in the Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia as a part of Finnish past (2003). Derek Fewster's doctoral thesis Visions of Past Glory is arguing for the role of nationalist views of historians and archaeologists as image-makers in the creation of the Finnish nation.

The study at hand belongs to the history of ideas with an emphasis on three phases in the history of historical and archaeological research: .romantic national antiquarianism., .high national medievalism. and .militant medievalism., stretching chronologically from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. In Fewster's vast study he theoretically relies on ideas launched by authorities in the field like e.g. Eric Hobsbawm, Anthony D. Smith and Benedict Anderson. Smith has argued that if a national identity is to be built, the use of myths of ethnic decent, both genealogical and ideological, is needed. Hobsbawm has launched ideas on .invented traditions. as important pieces in constructing a national identity. Similar work that has inspired Fewster is also found in Swedish research, e.g. recent works by Bodil Pettersson (2003) and Ulf Zander (2001). Fewster's study is part of a larger trend in present research: a popular book on the subject of the questions on creating images of ethnical descent in Sweden in the 19th century (the so-called .Gothicism. and the following movements) has been presented by Maja Hagerman (2006).

Very rarely nowadays scholars tend to display their .building site. of the study, but Fewster is making a courageous stand in the debate: in four .theses. Fewster draws the aim of his study. First he claims that previous research has somewhat neglected the importance of prehistoric and medieval interpretations of Finnish history in the creation of national, Finnish consciousness. Secondly he argues that several theories based on ethnical and archaeological material have been used to benefit in contemporary political discourse. The third .thesis. concerns the fact that the popularization of the Finnish Antiquity was a part of the nationalist movement in constructing a .great myth of ethnic decent. (compare with Smith's term). In the fourth .thesis. Fewster claims that archaeological images were used in popular images and thus utilized to serve a cultural, political and ethnical aim. This is also displayed in the debate between the Finnish (Fennoman) and Swedish-minded (Swecoman) in the mid-nineteenth century.

Along with using the debate of scholars, Fewster also uses educational images (e. …

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