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Durham e-Theses
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The beginning and spread of farming in Finland; and the
subsistence in Iin Hamina, the Northern Ostrobothnian region

LAHTINEN-KAISLANIEMI, MARIA,LEENA (2015) The beginning and spread of farming in Finland; and the
subsistence in Iin Hamina, the Northern Ostrobothnian region.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).



This work contributes to wider discussions of historical and prehistoric farming practices in marginal environments. In its origins, the process of adopting farming as a new mode of subsistence in Northern Europe was complicated, and its spread continued throughout Finland until the modern period. Farming can be an unreliable form of food production, and failures in cereal cultivation are still common. People's persistence in the face of such adversity allowed for cultivation practices to be adapted in a far northern climate

Discussions of early farming studies in Finland have been dominated by the question of whether single pollen evidence can be considered as reliable evidence of farming. This is based on the assumption that all cereal-type pollens indicate the presence of cereals. This assumption is considerably problematic: Cereal-type pollen includes several wild grasses that are also very common in Finland and thus cannot be considered as a reliable proof of cereal cultivation. It is not possible to study small scale farming using pollen analysis alone, but such analyses are useful for exploring when farming became well-established. This study combines the radiocarbon dates obtained from cereal-type pollen that was present in quantities larger than a single-grain. Using this approach it was observed that population size proxy and early farming studies correlate strongly. This suggests that cereal cultivation started to affect population size from approximately the last millennium BC onward, although the majority of this spread is seen during Iron Age and later periods.

In addition to improving the resolution of the earliest farming in Finland, this study also considers the impact these changes would have had upon diet. Protein intake can be studied using stable isotopes from human bone collagen if local background values are known. The Iin Hamina case study revealed that protein was mainly obtained from wild resources: According to the isotopic composition of human skeletal collagen, fish were a major dietary component. Moreover, reconstructions from incremental dentine analysis revealed that humans from Iin Hamina were well adapted to their environment.

Many aspects of early subsistence practices in Finland remain unknown. However, this study demonstrates that prehistoric cultivation was a multidimensional phenomenon in northern latitudes, and that this is an area that requires more attention in order to be more fully understood.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Diet, early farming, Finland, Archaeology, Medieval, Northern Ostrobothnia, Stable isotope analysis, subsistence
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Apr 2016 14:39

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