”The element of surprise is ever-present”
It requires experience and accuracy to be able to go through soil so that nothing is missed. However, it is always possible to end up with only worms and pebbles.

​Spatulas jingle, the metal detector keeps a funny noise and at times heads turn as someone lets out an excited shriek.

Juha Ruohonen, who works as Research Associate at the subject of Archaeology of the University of Turku, found an old burial site four years ago. Inspired by its name Ristimäki, which refers to a hill with a cross, Ruohonen started to explore a wooded area in the middle of fields and did indeed discover several depressions the size of a human.

– When working as an archaeologist, you develop an eye for discovering findings, says Ruohonen.

Most typically pieces of pottery are found from the ground. However, now something unique is about to be revealed: the footing of the oldest ecclesiastical building of Finland.

– We have discovered nails based on which we can make assumptions about the walls and materials of the building. Early medieval bracteates which are one-sided silver coins that are less than a millimetre thick have been discovered.

– Our current knowledge of the world is very limited. Often research brings up more questions than answers. Therefore, it is wonderful that we have been able to continue the excavations and research for several years, Ruohonen explains happily.

Ruohonen is writing his own thesis about burial customs and sites.

–Burial sites are the closest you can get to ancient humans in the modern world. Burial customs tell about the ways people have lived and potentially thought about. There are no other ways to get this information as asking is out of the question, grins Ruohonen.

When the soil is shovelled back in its place, the most extensive phase of research begins – the analysis. During it the pieces of history are put into place.

Text: Henna Borisoff
Translation: Jenna Sjöholm
Photograph: Hanna Oksanen

The article was first published in Finnish in the University of Turku's stakeholder magazine Aurora in October 2013.

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