A lot can be done in the archaeological study of a region’s history with an available record of registered ancient monuments, accurate field-documentation and knowledge on archaeological objects with clear finding circumstances. Therefore, it is only reasonable to try to clarify, what is the situation of applicable sources in regard to the Iron Age on Åland; this will be the topic of my next few posts.
To start with, there is a database that contains all known ancient sites and monuments on the Åland Islands and this inventory is administered by the Museum of Åland. Today, it contains information on roughly 1770 archaeological sites. So, what I did first was to filter archaeological sites and monuments in this database registered as belonging to the Iron Age – that left me with about 710 entries in case of which I also checked whether or not there have been any archaeological investigations implemented (this was done based on the sites’ description in the database as well as emanating from the accession numbers -numbers assigned to an archaeological collection that identifies its origin- in the Museum of Åland).
So far-so good, you may think. However, soon I was forced to amend my Iron Age database. First, a number of Late Iron Age cemeteries have been documented to have graves-contemporary house foundations or other settlement traces in the immediate vicinity, and these two distinct categories of ancient monuments have been registered as one (such as sites Su 21.8 and Su 21.9 on the figure above). Being interested in settlement archaeology, I separated these cemetery-settlement units. Monuments registered as settlement sites belonging to Bronze/Early Iron Age were taken into an account as well, mostly because of the scarcity of settlement remains from the Early Iron Age on Åland, but also because of the difficulty in exact dating of such sites to either of the periods on the basis of mere inventory. I also added sites and monuments registered as belonging to Iron Age/Medieval times and Late Iron Age/Medieval times and Iron Age/uncertain times – well, you get the point: the sites that might be connected to Iron Age. Plus, I also revised the database in regard to sites such as Su 22.4 on the figure. This site stands registered as a Late Iron Age cemetery with 6 grave mounds, although archaeological investigations determined these mounds to be rather recent house remains, i.e. this site is not relevant for my study.
Without going further into other kinds of amendments I have done to my Iron Age database, I will just wrap it up by noting that, today, I have 775 archaeological sites and monuments in it, with a total rounded up number of 12.420 different kinds of features (grave mounds, house foundations, cultural layers, burnt mounds, etc.) that I account relevant for my project. Of these 12.420 features, about 12.000 are graves and only about 200 belong to settlement remains; burnt mounds constitute the majority of the remaining features in this constellation. – This is the registered state of the Iron Age on Åland.