Author Archives: Oula Seitsonen

About Oula Seitsonen

An archaeologist and geographer working with varying things in various places, e.g. Mongolia, Tanzania, and Russia (basically with whatever pays my bills). I like for example Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Stone Age, contemporary and conflict archaeology, and lithics.

“Where the F… is Vuotso?”: Uusin julkaisumme vapaasti saatavilla / Our newest open access publication (English below the video)

Oula Seitsosen ja Eerika Koskinen-Koiviston juuri julkaistu tutkimus käsittelee toisen maailmansodan aikaisen evakuoinnin ja Lapin sodan tuhojen jälkeensä jättämää perintöä saamelaisessa poronhoitoyhteisössä Vuotsossa, Sodankylässä. Tutkimus on julkaistu kainsainvälisessä International Journal of Heritage Studies -julkaisussa, ja saatavilla kaikille avoimena (open access). Tutkimus on nimetty kunnianosoituksena Vuotsosta kotoisin olevalle Somby-yhtyeelle.

Julkaisun tiivistelmä kertoo:

Tässä artikkelissa käsittelemme toisen maailmansodan aikaisen evakuoinnin ja “Lapin polton” kulttuuriperintöä saamelaisessa poronhoitoyhteisössä ja arvioimme, miten nämä sota-ajan kokemukset ovat muokanneet ja muokkaavat edelleen tapoja, joilla ihmiset muistavat ja hyödyntävät toisen maailmansodan materiaalisia jäänteitä. Keskitymme tutkimuksessamme Vuotsoon, Suomen eteläisimpään saamelaisyhteisöön. Vuonna 1941 Natsi-Saksan joukot perustivat Vuotsoon suuren sotilastukikohdan, ja saksalaiset sotilaat ja kyläläiset asuivat läheisinä naapureina useiden vuosien ajan. Vuonna 1944 kyläläiset evakuoitiin ennen “Lapin sodan” puhkeamista. Lapin sodassa saksalaiset joukot tuhosivat sotilastukikohtansa ja kaikki siviilirakenteet. Tuhottujen saksalaisten sotilastukikohtien rauniot ovat edelleen nähtävissä kylän ympäristössä ja toimivat kyläläisille tärkeänä aktiivisena tekijänä tämän vaiheen muistamisessa. Saksalaisjäänteet näyttävät myös herättävän nostalgiaa sotaa edeltäneitä, itsenäisempiä aikoja kohtaan, ennen kuin perinteiset saamelaiset elämäntavat alkoivat nopeasti muuttua Suomen valtion voimakkaamman aktiviteetin seurauksena sodanjälkeisinä vuosikymmeninä.

Oula Seitsonen and Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto have just published their newest research about the heritage of Second World War forced movement and destruction in a Sámi reindeer herding community in Finnish Lapland at Vuotso, Sodankylä. Paper is available to all in the International Journal of Heritage Studies (open access). The title of our paper is a tribute to the Sámi rock band Somby originating from Vuotso.

The paper abstract states:

In this paper we discuss the heritage of the WWII evacuation and the so-called ‘burning of Lapland’ within a Sámi reindeer herding community, and assess how these wartime experiences have moulded, and continue to mould, the ways people memorialise and engage with the WWII material remains. Our focus is on the village of Vuotso, which is home to the southernmost Sámi community in Finland. The Nazi German troops established a large military base there in 1941, and the Germans and the villagers lived as close neighbours for several years. In 1944 the villagers were evacuated before the outbreak of the Finno-German ‘Lapland War’ of 1944–1945, in which the German troops annihilated their military installations and the civilian infrastructure. Today the ruins of demolished German military installations persist around the village as vivid reminders, and act for the villagers as important active agents in memorising this vital phase in Lapland’s recent past. They also appear to facilitate nostalgia for the more independent days before traditional Sámi lifeways were ruptured by stronger Finnish State intervention in the post-war decades.


European Association of Archaeologists annual conference in Maastricht

Oula Seitsonen is attending this week the European Association of Archaeologists annual conference in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is organizing a session “Who Owns the Battlefield” together with Ruurd Kok (Netherlands), Maarten Bracke (Belgium),
Jobbe Wijnen (Netherlands), Ivar Schute (Netherlands) and Simon Verdegem (Belgium). He presents a paper titled “Who owns the Wilderness? Second World War Heritage in Finnish Lapland” in the session, as one platform for the general discussion:

“Over the last decade archaeologists and other cultural heritage professionals have started paying attention to the material legacy of Nazi German presence in Finnish Lapland during the World War II, as Finland’s co-belligerent in the fight against the Soviet Union. At the peak of their military built-up there were over 200 000 German troops and about 30 000 of their multinational Prisoners-of-War and forced labourers in this thinly inhabited northern periphery of Europe. The Finno-German “comradeship-in-arms” came to an end under Soviet pressure in 1944, after Finno-Soviet cease-fire, and caused the outbreak of Lapland War between Finns and Germans. This ended up with the “Burning of Lapland” by the retreating German troops. Finno-German relations have thus been a sensitive and little-discussed issue throughout the post-war decades. There are ruins of thousands of over-grown German military sites in northern Finland, especially in Lapland’s vast wilderness areas. The question of the cultural heritage status and value of this material legacy has been raised only recently, and is still an open debate. However, during the archaeological and ethnographic inquiries it has been highlighted how important the material traces are for the local inhabitants, as an integral part of their ancestral, embodied every-day lifeworlds. They generally express a strong sense of ownership and custodianship towards the material remains on their “own lands”. The traces of war also act as important agents of the transgenerational communal memories of war, destruction, and a host of other issues beyond those, closely intertwined with contemporary questions. These also mirror Lapland’s long colonial history and, real and perceived, marginalization by the southern authorities, and the enduring north-south confrontations.”

Oula also attends the session “Archaeology of European “guerrillas”.
Resistances, landscapes and memories“, and presents together with Vesa-Pekka Herva a paper “‘Last morning’: Heritage of Soviet partisan raids against civilians in Finnish Lapland in the Second World War“:

“Finnish and Nazi German troops invaded together Soviet Union in Second World War as part of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Arctic front in Lapland was mostly on the German responsibility, but the German troops, unfamiliar with the northern environment and overcome by the poor infrastructure, made little advance and there was very little actual fighting in 1941–1944. However, owing to the demanding environmental setting, there were no continuous frontlines, but defense relied largely on isolated outposts, with vast stretches of wilderness between them. This enabled both sides to infiltrate guerilla troops behind the enemy frontlines: Finns sent out so-called long-range recon patrols for scouting and sabotage deep in Russian soil, whereas Soviet partisan troops moved through the wilderness to carry out reconnaissance and terror attacks on isolated Finnish homesteads and solitary vehicles. Soviet partisans murdered nearly 200 women, children and elderly people in the remote villages deep behind the frontlines. Finns and Germans formed anti-partisan troops to answer these attacks and to protect the distant homesteads, and also armed civilians, but this was not enough to prevent them totally. However, in the postwar decades these attacks were largely ignored and neglected, especially throughout the Cold War years until the fall of Soviet Union, to the dismay of the survivals and the relatives of the civilian casualties, and it took until late 1990s before they got national recognition or compensation. Despite this, there has so far been relatively little research, and the locals feel that their families’ suffering and heritage have been overlooked and sidelined.”

Coffins of the civiliand victims of a partisan attack (SA-Kuva).




New publication: Abandoned Refugee Vehicles “In the Middle of Nowhere”

Lapland’s Dark Heritage is active even during the summer holidays. Oula Seitsonen, Vesa-Pekka Herva and Mika Kunnari (University of Lapland) recently published a new research paper ‘Abandoned Refugee Vehicles “In the Middle of Nowhere”: Reflections on the Global Refugee Crisis from the Northern Margins of Europe‘ in a special issues of the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. Their article discusses the heritage of recent refugee flow through Lapland’s northern border posts and the cars that were abandoned and confiscated at the border.

Things left in the abandoned vehicles (Photos: Oula Seitsonen).

“Archaeology and heritage studies are, or should be, in a position to say something
meaningful about these broader issues entangled with refugees, and not least because
recent research in both fields has addressed themes that are more or less directly related
to refugee issues on the one hand, and materialities similar to the abandoned cars on
the other. For example, refugee issues represent a natural extension of the flourishing
interest in twentieth- to twenty-first-century conflicts, while the abandoned refugee
vehicles strike a resonance with themes such as “dark tourism” and ruins, or “ruin porn”.

The attraction to modern ruins and abandoned places and things, as exemplified by the
hobby known as “urban exploration”, is a mirror that reflects the significance of the very
materiality of the abandoned refugee vehicles. That is, the interest in urban exploration
and related practices would appear to denote a desire or need to encounter the world
and the past in an unmediated, “raw” form, “face to face”, and in one’s own terms. For
better or worse, the interpretation and understanding of the past and its material remains
have traditionally been dominated by experts who have told the public why this or that
thing surviving from the past is important, hence distancing non-experts from the valuation
of heritage. The same applies to refugee issues, which are governed by the state
in a faceless and bureaucratic manner, which in turn distances the public from the lived
experience and distress of the refugees. Direct encounters with the material realities
of the refugees, however, could be employed to spark personal, first-hand reflections
about, and connections with, refugee issues.”

And Now for Something Completely Different: Fieldwork in Mongolia

Oula Seitsonen took off yesterday to continue his field research with Jean-Luc Houle and others in the Western Mongolia Archaeology Project – and to finish his PhD manuscript on Lapland’s Dark Heritage while walking the steppes.

Mongolian research investigates the human-environment relationships and the social, political, and economic organizations of Bronze and Iron Age pastoral societies in the Zuunkhangai region (Uvs Province) of Mongolia through the use of landscape and settlement archaeology. Project’s previous field seasons have concentrated in the Khanuy Valley region north of the Khangai Mountais and in the Mongolian Altai, both areas where the Finnish pioneer explorers G.J. Ramstedt, Sakari Pälsi and J.G. Granö were also traveling in the early 1900s. Sakari Pälsi became in 1909 the first professional archaeologist to document the iconic monumental features of Mongolian Bronze Age, khirigsuur grave mounds and deer stones, amongst lot of other archaeological sites. After these early Finnish explorers a century passed until Oula started retracing their footsteps, and plans to continue doing so.

Workshopping: Uses of diffucult heritage (Kalmar, Sweden) and Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon 2017

Oula Seitsonen has been this week busy workshopping in Sweden and Finland. On Tuesday and Wednesday he took part in the seminar Memories of Violence and Oppression: Developing new uses of difficult heritage sites and landscapes in the Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden, presenting the “‘#InariDig: Public archaeology and augmented reality in engaging with difficult heritage”.

Rest of the week went in the Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon 2017 #DHH17. Oula was working through the week as part of the cultural heritage team consisting of humanists and computer scientists, marveling the theme “Heritage Sites and Participatory Cultures in the Digital Age“. Team came up with interesting observations related to the official and unofficial heritage in Finland and their uses based on various kinds of data, such as comparisons of participatory Geocaching and Pokemon Go sites to the nationally recognized heritage sites. The preliminary observations made during the week will be pursued further in the future.

Geocaches: Left) All geocaches (red), caches within 200 m of RKY sites (black); Right) Kernel Density Estimation of the latter.

War through Other Stuff Conference, Edinburgh / War through Other Stuff -konferenssi Edinburghissa

Oula Seitsonen and Vesa-Pekka Herva are taking part for the rest of the week in the War through Other Stuff Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. They present on Thursday February 23 a paper about a rather unlikely sounding couple, rural folk magic and modern war. Magical thinking and 20th-century conflict may appear as odd bedfellows, but some recent research proposes that magical thinking was common, for example, among military personnel during the Second World War. Albeit often marginalized and ignored, magical thinking affects the ways people understand and relate with the world in modern western societies in general, and in wartime conditions in particular. War can be considered as an inherently liminal state of affairs characterized by uncertainty, which in turn promotes ‘superstitious’ beliefs, for instance in the form of using protective charms. This paper discusses special finds and features recovered recently from three German-run WWII PoW camps in the northern margins of Finland. These peculiar and outwardly purposeless finds are considered in the context of rural folk magic and spiritualities in a ‘peripheral’ region of northern Finland. This paper brings together a host of broader issues: rural cultures and mindsets in the North, the significance of magical thinking in the context of (the material heritage of) modern war, and the perception of Lapland as an enchanted land characterized by natural and supernatural marvels and cultural ‘backwardness’. It is argued that the special deposits and features in question were made after the war in an attempt to ‘pacify’ malevolent places literally and figuratively haunted by ghosts of the wartime in the local folklore.

Lapin sotureita / Lapland’s warriors.

Oula Seitsonen and Vesa-Pekka Herva ottavat tällä viikolla osaa War through Other Stuff konferenssiin Edinburghissa, Skotlannissa. He pitävät torstaina 23.2. esitelmän ehkä hieman epätodennäköisen kuuloisesta aisaparista, kansantaikuudesta ja modernista sodasta. Maaginen ajattelu ja 20. vuosisadan konfliktit voivat kuulostaa oudolta parivaljakolta, mutta tuoreet tutkimukset ehdottavat, että maaginen ajattelu oli yleistä esimerkiksi sotilaiden keskuudessa toisessa maailmansodassa. Vaikka maaginen ajattelu jää usein marginaaliin ja sitä ylenkatsotaan, se vaikuttaa edelleen ihmisten tapaan toimia ja ymmärtää myös modernia länsimaista maailmaa ylipäänsä, ja erityisesti sodan aikana. Sota on perusolemukseltaan epävarma ja liminaali toimintaympäristö, mikä edistää ‘yliluonnollisia’ uskomuksia, esimerkiksi turvautumista erilaisiin onnenkaluihin. Esitelmä käsittelee odottamattomia erikoisia löytöjä, jotka olemme tehneet vastikään kolmella saksalaisten toisen maailmansodan aikaisella vankileirillä Lapissa.  Tulkitsemme näitä outoja ja näennäisesti tarkoituksettomia löytöjä kansanuskon viitekehyksessä. Tämä lähestymistapa koskettelee myös monia muita laajempia kysymyksiä, kuten pohjoisen maaseudun kulttuurin ja ajattelutapojen erityispiirteitä, maagisen ajattelun merkitystä modernin sodan materiaalisten jäänteiden yhteydessä, ja yleisiä näkymyksiä Lapista taianomaisena alueena, jolle  on luonteenomaista yliluonnolliset ja luonnonihmeet sekä kulttuurinen ‘takapajuisuus’. Ehdotamme, että tekemämme erikoiset löydöt ja ilmiöt on asetettu paikoilleen ja tehty sodan jälkeen, ja niiden tavoitteena on ollut ‘rauhoittaa’ nämä pahansuovat paikat, joita sodan haamut ovat vaivanneet kuvaannollisesti ja kirjaimellisesti paikallisessa kansanperinteessä.

Uusin julkaisumme: Kulttuuriperinnön “joukkoistaminen” / New publication: Crowdsourcing cultural heritage

Uusi vuosi alkaa Lapin synkkä kulttuuriperintö -projektissa uusilla julkaisuilla. Oula Seitsosen analyysi yleisön osallistumisesta Yleisradion järjestämään sotahistoriallisten kohteiden kartoitukseen julkaistiin vastikään Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage -lehdessä.

“Joukkoistaminen”-termi on hieman kömpelö käännös englanninkielisestä crowdsourcing-sanasta, jolla tarkoitetaan yleisön osallistamista esimerkiksi tiedon tai rahoituksen keräämiseen tai tutkimuksen tekoon (“crowd”=yleisö + “outsourcing”=ulkoistaa): Wikipedia on tästä ehkä vaikuttavin esimerkki. Muita ehdotettuja suomenkielisiä käännöksiä ovat esimerkiksi joukkouttaminen ja talkoistaminen. Joukkoistamisen viime aikainen yleistyminen linkittyy läheisesti maailmanlaajuisesti käynnissä olevaan tiedon tuottamisen ja käyttämisen demokratisoitumiseen. Osana tätä demokratisoitumiskehitystä on tiedostettu, ettei asiantuntijoilla ja ammattilaisilla voi olla yksinoikeutta tietoon, vaan myös suuren yleisön ja esimerkiksi paikallisyhteisöjen näkemykset on otettava huomioon aiempaa paremmin. Viime aikoina onkin kehitetty erilaisia tapoja, joilla voitaisiin huomioida paremmin yleisön tiedollinen, taidollinen ja tulkinnallinen panos, myös kulttuuriperinnöntutkimuksessa.

Verkossa tapahtuva joukkoistettu tiedonkeruu on yksi mahdollinen toteuttamistapa yleisön osallistamiseksi.  Ylen järjestämän sotahistoriallisten kohteiden yleisökartoituksen perusteella aihe kiinnostaa ihmisiä kovasti: Ylen kartalle kertyi parissa kuukaudessa lähes 2000 merkintää. Tutkimuksen perusteella erityisesti henkilökohtaisesti tärkeiden paikkojen promoaminen sekä oman tietämyksen jakaminen ja korostaminen näyttävät motivoivan ihmisiä ottamaan osaa tämän kaltaiseen yleisökartoitukseen. Ainakin näiden näkökohtien huomioiminen tulevia kulttuuriperinnön yleisökartoituksia tai muita joukkoistamisprojekteja suunnitellessa tuottaa todennäköisesti parempia tuloksia ja innostaa ihmisiä osallistumaan.

New year starts with new publications from Lapland’s Dark Heritage. Oula Seitsonen’s analysis of public participation in crowdsourcing of conflict heritage sites in Finland, organized by the State-broadcasting company Yleisradio (original Yleisradio article), has just been published in the Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage.

Paper abstract describes:

Following a recent worldwide boom in the democratization of knowledge, crowdsourcing and Participatory GIS, heritage practice increasingly draws on crowdsourced geographical data. In this paper, I discuss a public crowdsourcing of twentieth century conflict heritage in Finland, launched by state-owned broadcasting company Yleisradio. Here emphasis is on analysing the user behaviour and incentives, which can inform analogous future initiatives.Many of the public entries mirror local perspectives on conflict heritage: pride of personally important loci and self-satisfaction appear to be important incentives for taking part. Finally, I summarize themes that other heritage crowdsourcing organizers could apply to their work.



Merry Christmas: Public excavations for the summer 2017 funded! / Hauskaa joulua: Kesän 2017 yleisökaivauksille apuraha!

We received magnificent Christmas news: our 2017 public excavations got funded! We get to continue the public and community archaeological research together with the Sámi Museum Siida and all the volunteers from the local area and further away, with financial support from the University of Helsinki Future Fund!

We will arrange in 2017 two weeks long public excavations at Prisoner-of-War camps in Inari, inspired by the positive experiences and feedback from our 2016 field studies. Volunteers are again welcome to join in the excavations and related program, and to share their own experiences, opinions and everything else related to the World War 2 heritage.

We will update details about our upcoming studies in our blog page and through the University information channels after the New Years.

Merry and peaceful Christmas and happy New Year to everyone!!!

Christmas on front in 1942, Santa Claus has arrived (SA-Kuva).

Christmas on the front in 1942, Santa Claus has arrived (SA-Kuva).

Saimme vielä joulun alla ilouutisen, että vuoden 2017 yleisökaivauksiin anomamme apuraha on myönnetty! Pääsemme jatkamaan yleisö- ja yhteisöarkeologisia tutkimuksia yhdessä saamelaismuseo Siidan ja paikallisten sekä kauempaakin tulevien vapaaehtoisten ja kiinnostuneiden kanssa Helsingin yliopiston Tulevaisuusrahaston suosiollisella avustuksella!

Järjestämme loppukesästä 2017 kahden viikon mittaiset yleisökaivaukset Inarissa toisen maailmansodan vankileirikohteilla, vuoden 2016 tutkimuksista saatujen positiivisten kokemusten ja palautteen inspiroimina. Vapaaehtoiset ovat jälleen enemmän kuin tervetulleita osallistumaan kaivaustutkimuksiin ja kaivausten oheisohjelmaan, sekä jakamaan omia tärkeitä mielipiteitään, kokemuksiaan ja kaikkea muuta toisen maailmansodan kulttuuriperintöön jollain tavalla linkittyvää.

Ilmoitamme alkuvuodesta tarkempia tietoja tulevista tutkimuksista sekä blogissamme että yliopiston tiedotuskanavien kautta.

Hauskaa ja rauhallista joulua sekä uutta vuotta kaikille!!!


Archaeology Days of the Archaeological Society of Finland 10-11.11.2016

Suzie Thomas and Oula Seitsonen will be presenting our research at the Archaeology Days of Archaeological Society of Finland on 10-11.11.2016 at the University of Helsinki’s Lammi Research Station. They take part in the session “Memories of the past / Memories in the past” with a presentation “#InariDig: Using public archaeology to engage with difficult history” discussing our public excavations in Inari last summer and related wider issues.


Their abstract says: The legacy of the Second World War is an aspect of heritage that continues to have an impact across the world; in Finland this is no different. Our research project “Lapland’s Dark Heritage” addresses the ways in which local communities and individuals come to terms with the material remains of the Second World War still present in Finnish Lapland, in a multidisciplinary manner. One of the many approaches has been the use of archaeological investigation as a means of also engaging the public. In this presentation we outline the approaches we used in what has come to be known as “#InariDig”, the impact that this work appears to have had, and our plans for the next steps in our research.



“Materialities of the Pressing Past” seminar in Copenhagen

Oula Seitsonen is taking part in a “Dialogues with the Past” seminar “Materialities of the Pressing Past: Challenges in post-medieval archaeology and the archaeology of the recent past” in Copenhagen this week. As described, “[T]his seminar aims to explore the landscape of archaeological research as it transgresses conventional frameworks for a discrete ‘past’ and turns towards archaeology as the study of things, events and processes that are of archaeological relevance”. Oula will present a paper “Haunting and haunted reminders of the past: Special deposits and features at German-run WWII PoW camps in Finnish Lapland”, dealing with some of the unexpected finds and features with apparent relations to the northern rural beliefs in magic and spiritualities.

Tivoli in Copenhagen (Photo: Oula Seitsonen).

Tivoli in Copenhagen (Photo: Oula Seitsonen).