Ruling the Riversides

Weichsel glaciation 116 000-11 500 years ago

ICE RETREATSWeather has been changing dramatically for a long time. Cold wind sweeps over the glacier, not alone on the move; tiny creatures crawl amidst the icy mass. The bigger fauna dwell elsewhere.  

The remains of the former fauna, like the molar (copy) of the Woolly mammoth, were carried by the glacier and hidden in ridges and seabed clay.

The Glacial age has prevailed for 2,5 million years, but once again the glacier starts to retreat. The Uusimaa region will however be covered with water for thousands of years to come. Finally a cold and barren land rise from the sea. Through times many species thrive on its riversides and shores, be they men, fauna or flora. They all meet the whole spectrum of life – some disappear, others prevail.



The Baltic Took Form

Baltian jääjärvi
Glacier water formed big a big clear lake, the Baltic Ice Lake.
A channel opened over the low central Sweden, and salty water from the Atlantic mixed with fresh water in the Yoldia Sea.
The elevation of the land broke off the connection to the Atlantic, and so the Ancylus Lake was formed.
The oceanic level rose when the glaciers melted throughout the Northern hemisphere. Salt water broke through from the Atlantic, but this time at the Great Belt. The salinity in the Litorina Sea was at its highest about 6000 years ago.

During the last 2 000 years the Baltic has not changed much.


Shaped by the Ice

Several glacial periods affected the profile of the land and scraped off tens of meters of humus and sand. A barren and ancient bedrock or water surface was exposed 25-30 meters every year. When the burden was gone the ground, striving for balance, started to rise. And it is still rising.


The glacier caused dislocations and ruptures in the bedrock, laying the foundations for lakes and swamps.
Occasionally the ice grinded bedrock into sheepbacks revealing the direction of the moving glacier.
Giant´s kettles were formed where boulders were caught by whirlpools and ground against the bedrock to form cavities.
Stones were rounded into boulders in the rushing water inside the ice.
The ice melted in summertime and gravel fell to the ground. In wintertime the glacier pushed the gravel further. Terminal moraines were formed where the glacier´s edge moved back and forth for several hundred years.
A large amount of gravel was transported through tunnels in the ice by precipitating glacierwater. When the stream slowed down gravel sank to the bottom. Long ridges reveal the places of the former tunnels. Sometimes a large block of ice was covered with gravel, forming a kettle.
The glacier broke off big boulders, glacial erratics, from the bedrock and sometimes transported them great distances.
Where the glacier´s edge melted in water, deltas could form at the river channel.































Moraine is the most common sort of earth in Finland. It was formed when ice crushed bedrock into a roughly mixed material. The finest particles formed clay on the seafloor.








Strong winds formed dunes of fine sand.









7 000-6 500 years B.C.


The warmth of the blazing sun awakens the world. Seeds lie awaiting in the fragrant soil. Something wonderful is about to begin. Even the tiniest mole can feel the anxiety in the air. One has to beware the sharp nails and fangs, though. Dripping water melts the last patches of snow.

When the highest hills in the eastern Uusimaa region rise above the surface of the Litorina Sea, the climate is warm and relatively dry. For a long time plants and animals seem to hesitate whether to stay or leave. Former strangers find a place that suits many a different need.

The Four-horned sculpin made previously its journey from the Arctic Sea to the Baltic Ice Lake. This arctic fish has adapted through all the stages of the Baltic.
The young land was first invaded by fast spreading species, like Birch, Willow, Rowan and Common juniper. Not long after the tough and adaptable Scots pine arrived. The strength of the Pine lies in its ability to stand blazing hot sunshine. It conquered the North about 6 500 years B.C.
The generous sea, rich of seal and fish, drew people to the North. Seal hunters caught Ringed seal and Harp seal, the latter now extinct in the Baltic.
Plants like the Mountain avens that tolerate barren arctic conditions were successful in the race to the North. However, due to acidification of the soil, the plant is now deported to the northern alcaline fjelds.
Pulsatilla vernalis was common in the landscape resembling the eastern steppe. Later it found a refuge, from competing plants, on the dry and sunny hillsides as a beautiful reminder of an earlier phase of nature.
The Arctic hare and the Moose were among the first mammals to return. The young forest was excellent pastureland.
Lots of birds and rodents thrived in the young forests – and the predators like the Red fox followed. Today the Snow bunting breeds only in fjeld areas.


Seasonal migrations between breeding and wintering grounds offer the best conditions for numerous animals. Rich food resources of the light northern summer attract many bird species to breed in the North but the milder climate in the South is more suitable for wintering.


Mesolithic Stone Age 8 600-5 000 years B.C.


The skier slides across the shimmering snow. The tracks lead to a small thicket. The dark mass of a Moose rises against the whiteness of the snow. The animal is skinny and small, but it will have to do. For a fleeting moment, all movement ceases. The stone point of the spear is well sharpened, the hunter’s hand steady. In one throw the dice of life and death is cast.  metsastaja_cut

Humans follow on the tracks of animals and plants. Nature is setting the rules. One has to adapt to the seasons and the habits of the prey. The dog is an excellent hunting companion.

Let the Tool fit the Task

People knew their environment well and applied the diverse material offered by nature in an efficient and practical way. Also the prey was used to the last piece, from hide to horns and tendons. Since then, most of the organic material – wood, leather and bone – has disintegrated in the acid soil and only the parts made of stone remain.


Quartz is a species of rock occurring as veins in the bedrock. Due to its tendency to split it was suitable material for sharp tools. Arrow-heads of quartz,  Porvoo Munkkala
Only the angle-weight of stone is left from the fisherman’s rod. Weight, Porvoo  Henttala
Big game was hunted with stone-headed spears. Spearhead, Porvoo Weckjärvi
Chisels were used in many kind of woodwork. Chisel head, Askola Monsala
When climate warmed up also forest species from the eastern taiga found the            environment pleasing. The Brown bear  is one of them, another the Western capercaillie.


Neolithic Stone Age 5 000-1 500 years B.C.


The sandy beach bathes in the sunshine. Children are playing down at the shoreline. Two slender boats glide to the shore. The long-awaited travelers are greeted by a cheering crowd. Do they bring gifts from faraway lands? pojat-rannalla_cut

During the middle phase of Stone Age the climate is at its warmest ever since the Ice Age. The plants sensitive to cold grow far in the north. The south facing beaches are popular places to live and make camp. People master the art of pottery-making and are able to cover long distances.

During the Stone Age the oldest sites in eastern Uusimaa, Henttala and Munkkala, were inlets with excellent waterways. The sites are still inhabited.


The Water chestnut thrived in shallow and warm waters. It was an important source of protein. The nuts were eaten raw, heated or ground to flour.

The other species of trees were forced to give way to southern delicate deciduous trees. The fact that Oak, Hazel and Small-leaved lime grew so far north is a proof of the mild climate.
During the Neolithic Stone Age pottery was often decorated with comb-like stamps. The biggest vessels could hold up to 60 litres and were mainly used for storing seal fat. Early Comb Ceramic pottery, Porvoo Munkkala (reconstruction to the left)
A small grindstone was handy to carry. Porvoo Munkkala
Small, bent clay figures, idols, may have been symbols of spirits or children´s toys. Fragment of an idol, Porvoo Munkkala
Clothes were made of hides and fur, and could be decorated with rings of slate. Munkkala Porvoo


Stone Age Treasures

Occasionally trade or other connections could obtain some rarities from far distances, even though the nearby nature was the most common source of raw material.

Amber, also called “Gold of the Stone Age” was a desirable material for jewellery. In time its shiny surface has faded. Fragment of amber pendant, Porvoo Munkkala
Flintstone did not break as easily as the local quartz. Flint could be shaped into sharp and slim tools that were relatively big in size.  Flint edge, Porvoo Munkkala
Slate was easily applied into various utility goods. Green slate from Lake Onega and red slate from Köli were the most magnificent imported slates. Green slate head of a chisel, Henttala Porvoo


To the Bosom of the Earth


Relation towards death was probably an essential part of the people’s worldview. However, the lack of documents leaves the details in shadow. Many artefacts also accompanied the dead to the next life. During the early Stone Age bright red iron oxide had been strewn in graves, possibly symbolizing life and blood.










The habit of decorating vessels with stringlike stamps or relief spread, possibly with new inhabitants. Corded ware fragments, Porvoo
Magnificent battle axes may have been symbols of high status. The use of the battle-axes was eventually forgotten and they were suspected to be bolts of lightning thrown down by Ukko the High God. Head of a battle axe, Suomenkylä Porvoo
A huge surprise could lure under the surface, waiting for the fisherman. The waters were inhabited by the enormous Wels which could weigh as much as 200 kg.
The climate turned cooler by the time the Norway spruce spread from the east about 2 500 years B.C.. The secret of its success lies in the ability to survive with little sunlight while efficiently shading its rivals.


Bronze Age 1 500-500 years B.C.


A cold wind blows from the sea. There is still some grass left for the goats to graze on, but otherwise it is high time to stock for the coming winter. And someone has to repair the roof before the snow. If only one had enough furs to trade for a real axe of bronze!


Small-scaled cultivation and raising livestock have been practised since the late Stone Age although hunting and fishing have still remained the most important livelihoods. People begin to settle down. First bronze objects arrive to the north, but only the wealthiest can get hold of the imported metal.

Walls of buildings were constructed of poles and woven strips of wood, then sealed with a mixture of clay, animal dung and straw. (Model of a wall construction) 


The Brilliant Bronze

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin or some other metal. Bronze objects are cast in a mould.

Shiny bronze was used mostly for weapons and jewellery. Axe of bronze, Porvoo Anttila
Utility goods were still made of bone, wood and stone. A chisel head, Porvoo Gammelbacka
A spindle was used to spin fibre into thread. Clay spindle weight, Pyhtää Ahvenkoski
During the Bronze Age the pottery design underwent changes. Reconstructed clay vessel


Barrows as Graves

During the Bronze Age the ash of a deceased could be covered with a huge stack of stones, placed on a high cliff. The custom was probably applied only for the important members of the society.






Old McDonald had a farm

For ages the dog had been an excellent companion. Bringing also other animals to the farm is tempting as long as they are good natured, healthy and caring mothers.kolmikko

During the late Stone Age swine, sheep and cattle were introduced. (reconstructions of youngsters of early domestic races)


During the Bronze Age the first shears appeared in Finland as the sheep no longer moulted in spring (like Mouflon). The course brown wool now had to be shared off. Later gray and white sheep were bred.

In the 1600th century sheep with finer wool were introduced. Imported thin textiles were to be replaced with native products. The local Nordic sheep were turning rare.


The first domestic swine brought to the North are called ”forest swine”. This type of swine stayed the most common in the sty until the 1800th century. They were hairy with a long mug, small ears, long legs and varying colouration.  Domestic swine are bred from Wild boar.


Cattle were primarily used as draught animals. As milk producers they were not significant until far later. By breeding the size of the animals reduced from the two meters high Aurochs to the height of the medieval cow of 110 centimetres.


Iron Age 500 years B.C.- year 1150


Again and again, the hammer strikes the glowing blade. Oh, if one day some chieftain should come and ask for a fine sword to be forged! But axes and knives, that is what the common people need. Few are those who have left these shores and headed to faraway lands, even fewer those, who have returned.


The skill of working iron has reached the north. Mastering the laborious process requires the special skills of a smith. People begin to form tribes and communities, often led by a chieftain. Traders and warriors travel south bringing back luxury goods and tales of wonder.

The climate was still cooling. Lakes started to fill up with weeds and the marshlands spread. Deciduous trees gave way to coniferous forests.







Iron had the power to kill and the material was therefore connected with the supernatural. Iron spearhead, Pernaja Malmsby
Jewellery was still often made of bronze. Bracelets were worn by both men and women. Bracelets of bronze, Porvoo Pikku Linnamäki
The canine tooth of a bear was a common talisman, endowing the wearer a part of the bear’s strength. Bear tooth-pendant, Porvoo Ilola
The dead were often buried with their valuables. The burials in Pikku Linnamäki have similarities with those in the Baltic area. Shepherd’s crook pin, Porvoo Pikku Linnamäki
Due to their form, the tinder stones have been connected with fertility.
Thanks to their ability to stand heavy shade and acid litter, plants like the Twinflower did benefit from the success of the Norway spruce.


Middle Ages 1150-1570

Outposts of the Crown

In the early Middle Ages both the Swedish crown and the eastern lords of Novgorod tried to claim dominance over the coastal region. During the troubled times high strongholds offered excellent vantage points place of refuge.


The hillforts of Linnamäki, Husholmen and Sibbesborg were likely to have been fortified by the order of the Swedish king in the late 14th century. Their main function was to demonstrate the might of the king and serve as headquarters for tax collection.

Eventually the wooden fortresses were deemed dispensable by the Danish Queen Margaret and demolished.

Maari was already in the 12th century a lively harbour, in which foreign plants settled. Persicaria foliosa (left) and the extremely rare Najas tenuissima (middle) were both described as new species for science based on the findings of Maari. The Dark mullein (right) indicates that the site has been inhabited in ancient times.
Hardly any battles are known to been fought at the fortresses in eastern Uusimaa. If needed the defence could have hold for quite a long time. Arrowheads, Porvoo Linnamäki
Dice and board games, like the tactical war game hnefatafl, were popular leisure activities. Counters of stone and glass, Sipoo Gumbostand and Porvoo Dean vicarage


Late Middle Ages 1400-1599


The cart sways under the weight of the stones. The lads seem to be already waiting to hoist them up to the masons. The vaults should be finished before the snow, they say. Grand shall the new church surely be, but it is the common folk who do the paying with all the tithes and taxes. But every man has his share on this sorry Earth, and the Heavenly Grace awaits those, who do the Lord’s bidding.


From the 13th century onward Swedish speaking settlers start to inhabit the region. Porvoo is granted a town charter around year 1380. Trade is flourishing both with the inland and the town of Tallinn on the other side of the gulf. In 1550 the King orders the people to settle in newly founded Helsinki. Devastating fires make further damage to the town.

The great road”, Suuri Rantatie, led from Turku to Viipuri. In good weather and on a fast horse the journey could be made in four days, though the gentry had little reason to rush and the country people couldn’t. Inns were situated along the road offering a place to rest. Parts of the road are still in use.


Mats Simonsson on a break


Mats the merchant’s hand enjoys the meal of a commoner in the time of fasting. The home-made rye bread is rather hard and the apple already quite wizened. At least the fish is fresh. Some sour milk mixed water to wash it all down, and there we go again.

Mats is wearing clothes made of wool and linen and dyed with plants. All the clothes have been made by Mats’ young wife. The merchant has given him leather shoes and the belt is made from and extra piece Mats got from a friendly cobbler.

According to the law everyone was obliged to grow Hop, an essential ingredient in beer. The salty food required lots of liquid, and the water was rarely clean enough to drink. A man could easily drink up to five litres mild beer a day.

In the Hands of the Almighty jakob-2

Christianity arrived in the North with traders and clergymen. At first the doctrine and symbols were only beliefs and talismans among many. During the Middle Ages the Catholic Christianity settled as the only official religion.

Converting ”pagans” was not easy. Old gods and nature spirits long had their place beside the White Christ.

The church dominated the society. Great amounts of land were owned by the church, cloisters were centres of learning and archbishops rivaled kings in power and prestige.




Literacy was a rare skill. Official documents were written by a scribe or a learned clergyman. Bronze ink bottle, Porvoo




The commoners’ dishes were mostly made of wood. Wooden dish, Porvoo
The making of a pair of shoes required the skills of both a tanner and a shoemaker. Fragment of footwear, Porvoo
A thick bone needle was used when making mittens and socks with the nalbinding technique. Bone needle, Porvoo, nalbinding model
Domestic animals were an everyday part of the townspeople’s lives. Without a horse many a heavy task would have been left unaccomplished. Horse shoe and nails, Porvoo


Mikael Agricola – From Pernaja to the Wide World


Mikael was born 1510 to a farming family in Pernaja.  He had the privilege to be sent to school in Viipuri in order to become a clergyman. At the age of 26 Mikael signed up to the university of Wittenberg, where he began to use a latin surname Agricola, ”The Farmer”.

In Wittenberg Agricola adopted the Lutheran doctrine and after returning to Finland, began to translate religious texts to the language of the people, which was one of Lutheranism main theses. Finnish language was yet to have its literary form, and so Agricola’s alphabet was published five years prior to his translation of the New Testament in 1548.

Agricola was at the height of his career when king Gustav Vasa appointed him as the bishop of Turku. He died before reaching 50, when returning from a peace negotiations in Russia.


17th century


It is still dark behind the window, the room freezing cold. But one must leave the cosy warmth of the covers and be quick with the washing and brushing. Down the stairs, quietly as a mouse. A yawn cannot be stifled while kindling the embers in the master bedroom fireplace. Mistress’ garments are ready, and high time, there is already rustle behind the bed curtains. One cannot but hope that she has slept well…


In the 17th century the Swedish Empire is at its height, but it requires waging war all around the Baltic. The Lutheran Church has established its power, and its tight decrees control the lives of each estate. The climate is cool and moist. Trade promotes building manors and manufactures.

”Posh manners” were introduced. Cutlery became more and more common. Passglas, a special drinking vessel for beer, was passed along the gathered company. A combination of an earspoon and a toothbrush made of bone. Iron knife, Porvoo, Passglass reconstruction, Combined tool, Porvoo Cathedral
Beeswax candles were burnt in forced iron candelabra. Candelabra, Myrskylä
Servants rolled the linens with a rolling board and a stick. Rolling board of Middle European origin (1651), Pukkila
Huge copper coins of the 17th century were magnificent, but extremely impractical.
In the document dated 1595, the lord of the Gammelbacka Manor gives his wife as a dower two estates, a townhouse, 100 gold coins and 20 silver pieces. Round seals of wax represent the noble men witnessing the act.


Early 18th century


Sunset, time for the change of guard… Legs are almost numb already. Must not slip, though; someone has to guard all the supplies gathered from the good townsfolk. They had not much, poor souls, and were not exactly willing to contribute. Almost had a scuffle back there. But the soldiers of the crown got to have their share; otherwise it will be the Russians all over again.


Years of famine hold Finland in their grasp in the end of the 17th century. Desperate peasants are forced to abandon their homes, followed by pestilence and disease. Soon the unstable political situation between Sweden and Russia erupts into flames. The Great Northern War and the following Russian occupation, the Greater Wrath, mark the end of the Swedish Empire and the beginnings of a harsh and perilous era.

Town as a Garrison

Both Carolean and Russian soldiers were a common sight in Porvoo in the beginning of the 18th century. Their maintenance was a heavy burden for the townspeople. On the other hand, the soldiers brought some liveliness into the otherwise rather limited society.

Flintlock pistol was used by cavallery officers.
The Carolean muskets were loaded with black powder. Powder horn, Sipoo
Smoking had become a common habit among soldiers as well as ordinary people. Clay pipes, Porvoo Uddas
Four-spiked caltrops were scattered on the battlefield to hamper the enemy’s advance.



Through the centuries, ruling the riversides has been both a chance and a challenge.  Hopes and dreams have either met the surrounding realities, or succumbed to them. Either way, the legacy of the past lives on, in this day and all the days to come.




Contributors: Aktia Foundation, Svenska Kulturfonden
Object Loans: National Board of Antiquities
Special thanks to: Ilana Rimón, Tvärminne Zoological Station, Conservation Laboratory at the National Museum of Finland, Borgå Gymnasium, Congregation of Pyhtää, Olli Hakkarainen, Andreas and Riina Koivisto
Illustrations in colour:  Tom Björklund