Finland’s First Crowdfunded Dig Unearths Rare Iron Age Site

Horse head pendant from Pirttitörmä

Horse head pendant from Pirttitörmä

Cold, remote and relatively unknown to archaeologists, few have excavated in Northern Finland; many believed it remained poor and unsettled until the Middle Ages. But now, Finland’s first crowdfunded dig looks set to change all that.

During a three week excavation in Pirttitörmä, Northern Finland, a small team of archaeologists from the University of Oulu unearthed evidence of a rare Late Iron Age site, including jewellery, coins and a walled settlement, with a burial site just 1km away.

Until now, little was known about the archaeology of Northern Finland; only a handful of sites had been excavated and the region was widely believed to have remained poor and disconnected from the rest of Europe with few permanent settlements before the Middle Ages.

But now, Finland’s first crowdfunded dig has uncovered the remains of a wealthy Iron Age settlement. Among the most exciting finds were a horse head pendant, a lock with wood still in it, a decorative object, a cloak pin and a 13th century silver coin.

Finds from Finland's first crowdfunded dig

From left to right: horse head pendant, lock with wood still in it, decorated object, and a cloak pin.

Rich finds reveal a wealthy Iron Age settlement

The team also discovered what appears to be a walled structure, with a hearth and a large midden of burnt bones with clear cut marks.

Rich in finds, Pirttitörmä suggests that instead of being poor and isolated as was previously thought, the people of this area were wealthy, connected to Europe and, just as importantly, settled.

“The main problem has been the lack of research in this area” said Emmi Koivisto, who organised the crowdfunding campaign. “Most discoveries have been stray finds and permanent structures are not visible above ground, but we have been working for a couple years to change this view”.

Nearby burial ground

The project targeted excavations at sites where stray Iron Age artefacts had been found. In all cases, the excavations revealed fixed sites underneath, including a burial site just 1km away.

“These sites have the potential to change our understanding of the Late Iron Age in Northern Finland. They reveal that there has indeed been settlement in the region – Pirttitörmä is the first one to be discovered in this era and we have clear evidence of long-term use”.

Crowdfunding archaeology in Finland

Like the UK, Finnish archaeology has suffered cuts to funding in recent years, prompting the team to turn to the community for the first time.

“This was the first crowdfunded excavation in Finland. Organising the campaign hasn’t been easy – licensing, creating the pledges and websites, and marketing the project all turn out to be a lot of work, but luckily DigVentures was there to inspire me and lead the way!” Emmi said.

“The campaign was well worth the effort and it was very rewarding to see our news being shared so widely on Facebook and Twitter”.

A new era of archaeological research

“Crowdfunding turns out to be an excellent way to involve many more people with archeological research. Our daily reports were particularly popular and the enthusiasm and feedback from our supporters was so positive and encouraging” said Emmi.

“With the help of our supporters, we’ll now be able to carry out two radio carbon dating tests to find out whether the settlement and burial site are linked! This might well be the start of a new era in archaeological research in Finland!”

Read more about Tracing Finds, Finland’s first crowdfunded dig here or see the crowdfunding campaign here.

Want to find out more about crowdfunding your own archaeology project?
Get in touch with @TheDigVenturers or email

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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