Introducing Matts Dreijer

There are 10 or so archaeologists who stand for 5 or more excavation reports relevant for the Iron Age on the Åland Islands, but one of these archaeologists stands out like a towering mountain above all the others in this respect. Of about 215 excavation reports on Iron Age, over 80 are written by Matts Dreijer, while Ella Kivikoski and Jan-Erik Tomtlund, who are following second and third, stand together for just over 40 reports on excavated features. Matts Dreijer (1901-1998), who was born in Estonia, held an influential position within the local administration of the Åland Islands; he was head of the department of antiquities and superintendent of the Åland Museum from 1934 until 1970. And he was very passionate about Åland, but that does not change the fact that it is often his excavation reports that are of rather low quality.

Matts Dreijer

Medal Matts Dreijer 85

It is true that what is considered to constitute quality in excavation reports develops in line with changes in the way archaeologists conduct research. And archaeology, the way archaeological fieldwork is conducted has developed immensely when compared to the days when Matts Dreijer was excavating. Well, even excavation reports that were considered of high quality just ten years ago might be difficult to set as an example for the reports written today. Thus, it is natural to wonder if Dreijer’s reports are not just reflecting the spirit and standards of the archaeology of his days. However, I do not think that this is entirely the case… Although it is to a certain extent relevant (as well as amusing) to read about who was the lady holding the measuring stick or how the excavation interrupted the vacation, etc. – small facts of such nature are often mentioned in Dreijer’s reports – compared to archaeologists excavating and reporting on Åland at the same time with him as well as before and after, Dreijer is neither detailed nor descriptive enough to permit re-examination of excavated sites beyond the most rudimentary level; he is hardly ever analyzing his fieldwork. This is making his excavation reports, on some occasions, almost frustrating to read as one is just craving for more relevant information. In this connection, it is quite noteworthy that these ca. 40 reports that are authored by Kivikoski (who was contemporary to Dreijer) and Tomtlund cover many more pages than reports written by Dreijer, who did excavate many more sites… But Dreijer did publish his interpretations, which is totally another story 😉


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