Press release


New intriguing finds from the Late Iron Age have been found in Kvarnbo, Saltvik, on the Åland Islands, within the framework of a project led by Dr Kristin Ilves. Finds, consisting mainly of personal ornaments of silver and bronze, were unearthed in connection to what is believed to be the remains of a 40 x 12 m large building. Overall, the results point towards the existence of an elite settlement at the site, comparable to only a handful of places in the Baltic Sea region.

The research project titled “The Hall at the Crossroads of Baltic Waterways” was initiated in 2012 and emanated from an infra-red aerial photography depicting the fields north of the church of Saltvik where archaeologists observed a soil impression that bears very strong similarities with the outlines of large Late Iron Age hall structures known from Scandinavia. Halls were buildings with special social importance for the region. There are similar hall buildings known throughout Scandinavia, such as in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden, but longhouses of comparable dimensions have been previously unknown both on the Åland Islands and on mainland Finland. The project aims to discuss the nature of the settlement. As a first step, non-intrusive field surveys were conducted at the site and several interesting finds were collected from the area where the longhouse is believed to have been situated.

Among the unearthed objects, there are several different types of brooches from the late 6th century AD to the end of the Viking Age. One of the earliest finds recovered is a brooch shaped as a bird of prey. A well-preserved small oval brooch belongs to the same period. The craftsmanship is characterized by rich ornamentation in different techniques and motifs – a Viking silver finger ring exhibits an intricate pattern of punched triangles, while the unearthed part of an equal armed brooch depicts the head of a human or an animal. In addition to jewellery, an end socket made of bronze that has been sitting at the tip of a scabbard, a so-called sword chape, was found. This object has a direct parallel in an object found at Birka, where the better preserved specimen displays ornamentation in the shape of a human figure. Further investigations are planned in the area in 2014.

Pictures of a brooch shaped as a bird of prey, part of an equal armed brooch depicts the head of a human or an animal and a Viking silver finger ring. Photos used with the courtesy of the Museum of Åland.

Pictures of a brooch shaped as a bird of prey, an equal armed brooch depicting the head of a human or an animal and a Viking silver finger ring. Photos used with the courtesy of the Museum of Åland, Ålands Landskapsregering

– This is the very first press release I have written 🙂 And it feels great to have the news of such relevance for the archaeology in the Baltic Sea region out there, in the public. Although the finds are to be conserved yet and new information will surely arise after that, in my following posts, I will present a number of these interesting finds to you in more detail.



6 thoughts on “Press release

    1. Kristin Ilves Post author

      De är ju dem bästa 😉 – speciellt om de dateras till tidig vendeltid (eller merovingertid som man säger här i Finland). För övrigt lyckades jag för en vecka sedan se ett gäng brushanar 😀

  1. beerviking

    When did the site surveys take place? I remember walking past this site (it’s north off Kvarnbo-Kyrkvaegen near the Tingplats stone, right?) maybe 10 years ago and being told there was a longhouse site out there.

    It’s amazing you have so little evidence of this kind, given how much other evidence there is from the period!

    1. Kristin Ilves Post author

      I have been field-working at the site from this year and one of (a number of) aspects for me choosing this particular location and hypothesizing about the hall was the fact that there are several pretty nice and archaeologically investigated (by Dreijer in 1950s) Late Iron Age/Early Medieval houses nearby, just some hundreds of meters N from my site. I am sure that these are the houses you were referred to 🙂 And there are Late Iron Age house-foundations in Saltvik that are over 20 meters long and such houses are, by all means, long houses, but none of these has the dimensions I am dealing with at my particular site of investigations.

      You are right in terms of the amount of investigated material from Åland… not much research has been done on Åland compared to the surrounding regions, especially, in terms of settlement archaeology. But I’m on it! 😀

      1. beerviking

        Ah right, so this is in addition to the other houses in the area – not quite Birka, but it does suggest a significant settlement, and why not a market place too? You just have to find it… (-:

        After I wrote that reply I spotted the metal-detecting photo showing the back of the church, so I understand where you’re working now. It’s all very interesting, especially when you align it with the LIA harbour and coastline.

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