Local communities of the Bothnian Arc in a prehistoric world

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa L10, Zoom-link: https://oulu.zoom.us/j/61255618177

Topic of the dissertation

Local communities of the Bothnian Arc in a prehistoric world

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Aki Hakonen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Archaeology

Subject of study



Professor Marianne Skandfer, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Troms, the University Museum


Professor Vesa-Pekka Herva, University of Oulu

Add event to calendar

New archaeological study sheds light on the unique past of Central Fennoscandia in Northern Europe

The Bothnian Arc is an exceptional archaeological treasure. The largest Stone Age cemetery of Scandinavia is located in the region. Ancient islands and river estuaries are populated by vast ruins of Neolithic villages unparalleled in Northern Europe. Megalithic “giant’s churches” whisper an unsolved story.

In a new doctoral dissertation published by the University of Oulu, an understanding of the multimillennial prehistory of the region as a part of the Northern European past is sought. The study collates for the first time the vast narrative of the six thousand years of Central Fennoscandian prehistory.

From the wider focus, the perspective zooms in towards the local communities around the Bothnian Bay. After a Stone Age migration, the region went through a division into two cultural spheres, with their separate ways of life. The northern regions are characterized by the uniqueness of the hunter-gatherer worldview, which is still present in the Sámi culture of today. As a clear contrast is the immigrant culture of the south, on whose foundations the Nordic nation states were founded.

The latter culture exhibits characteristics related to the ideal of production already in the far prehistory. The ambivalence between the two cultures was eased by the similarly multivalent relationship with life and death, and also with the dead. The modern Scandinavian culture of death has a lot to learn from prehistoric practices. Shifting the perspective reveals that the differences between the local communities were notable throughout the past. Communities may have even actively distinguished themselves from their neighbors by choosing to adopt differing objects and dwellings, which were not always the most practical.

The most significant differences seem to have formed between large river areas. Because especially the coastal communities were dependent on the local rivers, the streams could have been understood as protecting spiritual entities, who in their own way transformed the communities residing on their shores.

The wider objective of the study, one that is applicable in general archaeological theory, is to argue for a shift in the perspective of prehistoric archaeology from the abstract level of society closer to local communities. It is argued that the prehistoric world was formed through these communities, events, and interactions in the local level, just like in our own lives. Identifying local differences and their multiplicity further undermines the projection of the concept of society into the far prehistory.
Last updated: 1.3.2023