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.

Video of our 2018 fieldwork now online! Filmi vuoden 2018 kenttätöistämme nyt nähtävissä!

Wesa Perttola has again edited a nice little film of our latest fieldwork – and sadly last with the Academy of Finland funding. However, the Lapland’s Dark Heritage work carries on, with new publications and also new upcoming fieldwork in Gilbbesjávri (Kilpisjärvi) in summer 2019! This will also not be the only film originating from the 2018 expedition: a more artistic presentation is coming out soon by our house-artists Pieter-Jan van Damme and Suvi Tuominen. Keep tuned for more information!

Wesa Perttola on jälleen editoinut hienon videon viimeisimmistä kenttätöistämme – ja valitettavasti myös viimeisistä Suomen Akatemian rahoituksella toteutetuista. Lapin synkän kulttuuriperinnön tutkimus kuitenkin jatkuu, uusien julkaisujen ja kesällä 2019 Gilbbesjávrin (Kilpisjärvi) alueella toteutettavien kenttätöiden muodossa! Tämä ei myöskään ole ainoa filmi, joka syntyi vuoden 2018 kenttäretken myötä: projektimme taiteilijoiden Pieter-Jan van Dammen ja Suvi Tuomisen tuottama taiteellisempi filmi valmistuu lähitulevaisuudessa. Pysy kanavalla kuullaksesi lisää!

Still going on strong! Jaksaa, jaksaa!

Even though the funding is over, Lapland’s Dark Heritage carries on strong on its dark path. Our papers continue to attract interest, for instance, the “Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage” paper is among the four most read articles in the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage.

New studies are also in press and we’ll keep you informed as they come out! Besides writing papers, our researchers have been busy presenting Lapland’s Dark Heritage research at different seminars, public lectures and other events, such as “Politics of Memory and Oblivion” lecture series at the University of Helsinki on 15.-22.11., the University of Helsinki archaeology student union Fibula’s “Alumni Night” on 29.11, and the Department of Archaeology “Archaeology Afternoon” on 14.12.

We are also actively working on a new project proposal to get new fieldwork going on in the Gilbbesjávri (Kilpisjärvi) region where we have been working also previously. The planned research would combine for instance public crowdsourcing and citizen science, detailed analyses of Lidar data and artificial intelligence into a new and exciting combo!

Stay tuned!

Vaikka rahoituskausi on ohi, Lapin synkkä kulttuuriperintö jatkaa synkkää taivaltaan. Julkaisumme jaksavat kiinnostaa ihmisiä ja esimerkiksi kulttuuriperintötiedon keruun joukkoistamista käsittelevä “Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage” -artikkeli on Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage -julkaisun neljänneksi luetuin artikkeli.

Uusia tutkimuksia on myös painossa ja ilmoitamme, kun ne saadaan ulos! Artikkelien naputtelun ohella tutkijamme ovat olleet kiireisiä esitellessään Lapin synkkään kulttuuriperintöön liittyviä tutkimuksia seminaareissa, luennoilla ja muissa yhteyksissä, esimerkiksi Helsingin yliopiston “Politics of Memory and Oblivion” -luentokurssilla 15.-22.11., arkeologian opiskelijoiden Fibula ry:n “Työelämä illassa 29.11. ja Arkeologian oppiaineen “Arkeologian iltapäivässä” 14.12.

Työstämme myös uutta projektisuunnitelmaa, jonka puitteissa saisimme uudet kenttätyöt käyntiin Gilbbesjávrin (Kilpisjärvi) alueella, missä olemme jo aiemminkin inventoineet. Suunniteltu tutkimus tulisi yhdistämään tieteellisen tiedon tuottamisen joukkoistamisen, Lidar -aineistojen yksityiskohtaiset analyysit ja tekoälyn uudeksi, jännittäväksi yhdistelmäksi!

Pysy kanavalla!


Thank you for the past years! Lapland’s Dark Heritage is slowing down

Lapland’s Dark Heritage project is coming to the end of its funding by the Academy of Finland and the active research phase ended with the final fieldwork carried out in Lapland in August 2018. The project has been extremely interesting and we are grateful to all the people who have been in co-operation with us over the past four years! Our social media channels will be toning down, but we’ll keep informing you through them for example whenever new research gets published.

We continue to publish the results of our research, even if the active phase is now over: there are at the moment several publications that are coming out soon, and several others that are being still processed. Our studies have been very productive, for instance, in the research and popular publications, the public outreach and community and public archaeology, and the impact on how the German WW2 material heritage in Northern Finland is seen both locally, nationally and internationally.

Our most important measurable scientific and public outputs in 2014-2018:

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Research paper (peer reviewed) 1 5 6 4
Research paper (non-peer reviewed) 1 1 3
Popular paper 1 2 2
Book 1
Conference/seminar presentation 2 3 6 9 2
Public presentation 5 4 3
Public community archaeological studies (weeks)
1 2 1
Orthodox memorial service at POW camp
Total 3 5 18 24 16

Although all of us are moving on to work with other things in the nearby future, you are welcome to keep contacting Vesa-Pekka Herva, Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto, Oula Seitsonen and Suzie Thomas in Lapland’s Dark Heritage related matters. We are also actively planning continuation for our research on Lapland’s Second World War heritage!

You are also welcome to follow Oula Seitsonen’s new Winter War conflict archaeology project Archaeology of the Mannerheim Line: Mapping the Heritage Value of Finnish Second World War Defensive Line in Karelian Isthmus (Russia), at University of Helsinki in 2018-2019.

Oula Seitsonen’s new post-doc position at the University of Oulu

Oula Seitsonen will carry on working with Lapland’s Dark Heritage as a post-doctoral researcher until autumn 2018, after which he launches a new, somewhat different post-doctoral project at the University of Oulu. However, he will be continuing to work in Lapland, as part of the European Research Council funded interdisciplinary project Domestication in Action: Tracing Archaeological Markers of Human-Animal Interaction, directed by Anna-Kaisa Salmi. Domestication in Action project aims to create new methods and concepts for identification and interpretation of animal domestication, using the reindeer domestication among the indigenous Sámi in northern Fennoscandia as a case study.

Oula will be developing GIS (Geographical Information Systems) based approaches for studying the taskscapes of Sámi reindeer herding through time. He will carry on working together with some of the reindeer herders who have been interacting with us during the Lapland’s Dark Heritage research.

Domestication in Action: Tracing Archaeological Markers of Human-Animal Interaction project blog:

Oula and Elvi Seitsonen by a fjell lake in the Muotkatunturit Wilderness Area (Photo: Naomi Blencowe).

And Now for Something Completely Different again: Oula’s post-PhD defense ventures

Oula Seitsonen has had no time to rest on his laurels after defending his PhD thesis. He has been rather busy with various endeavors in Kenya, Norway, and northern Finland, with his new travel companion “The Dietl”, presented by his colleagues as a graduation present:

“The Dietl”.

In Kenya he took part in the ECHOES workshop on the fossil databases, at the Turkana Basin Institute Turkwel research station and at the National Museums of Kenya. He has been working for several years in the project with a GIS database of fossil find locations in the Lake Turkana region.

Where no Dietl has gone before – Turkana Basin Institute, Turkwel, Kenya.

In Oslo he participated in a workshop developing interdisciplinary research framework on “Towards unveiling when and where pastoralism is the optimal livelihood“, chaired by the University of Oslo Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis.

Where some “Hero of Narvik” have gone before – Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway.

In northern Finland he has been visiting for example localities along the (thickly snow-covered) Hyrynsalmi-Kuusamo field railway built by the Germans during the Second World War, known locally as the “Railway of Death”.

Where some Dietl have gone before – Taivalkoski, Feldbahnstrecke Hyrynsalmi–
Kuusamo, “Die Todesbahn”.

Now the Lapland’s Dark Heritage team is busy finishing three article drafts to be delivered before Vappu, and planning next autumn’s adventures in Lapland!

Free access to “influential research” in 2018!

Routledge Archaeology published in the start of March their listing of “influential research and discoveries published” in their journals “Altmetrics in Archaeology”.

The list includes 91 titles that “have yielded high Altmetric scores and thus high levels of audience engagement”, including 3 Lapland’s Dark Heritage papers, over 3 percent of all the papers included!

All the interesting papers in the listing are free to read until the end of 2018, enjoy reading them:

Our papers in the list are:

If you are interested in any of our research, you can always contact us!





Oula Seitsonen’s PhD defence 2.3.2018

Oula Seitsonen has just finished his PhD thesis on Lapland’s Dark Heritage: “Digging Hitler’s Arctic War: Archaeologies and Heritage of the Second World War German military presence in Finnish Lapland“.

His public defence will be on March 2nd 2018 at the University main building, Auditorium XV. Professor Paul Mullins from Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), will serve as the opponent, and Professor of Cultural Heritage Studies Suzie Thomas as the custos.

Box of books.

Abstract / tiivistelmä:

This dissertation discusses the material heritage of the German military presence in Finnish Lapland during the Second World War (WWII), as seen through archaeological and multidisciplinary studies. The Nazi German presence as brothers-in-arms in northern Finland has been a difficult and downplayed issue on multiple levels throughout the post-war decades. This study presents the first wider, problem-oriented and theoretically informed investigation about the archaeologies, materialities and heritage of the German WWII presence. However, even this work barely scratches the surface of this multifaceted subject and sets out future research directions. The experience of WWII in Lapland was different from the war experience elsewhere in Finland. The German troops had the frontal responsibility in Lapland in 1941–1944, and at the height of their military build-up there were more German troops and their multinational prisoners in the area than local inhabitants. After Finland made a cease-fire with the Soviet Union in 1944, a Finno-German Lapland War (1944–1945) broke out between the former brothers-in-arms. Due to the long nation-level downplay of the complex German presence, also the northern Finnish and Sámi war experiences have become side-lined. Accordingly, the German material remains have been treated dismissively as “war junk” littering Lapland’s nature. However, for the locals these were well-known throughout the post-war decades, as active material agents of communal and familial memories, and as part of Lapland’s cultural landscapes. This dissertation has two main focuses. Firstly, I study the Germans’ and their prisoners’ experiences in Lapland during the war through the material remains and archaeological inquiries, and secondly, the ways in which the different stakeholders have signified the traces of war in the post-war decades. The material traces illustrate and highlight in many ways the experiential aspects of the German soldiers’ and their prisoners’ wartime existence in an unfamiliar northern environment. The post-war perceptions of the German material remains underline the social value of these as part of the local long-term heritage and lived-in cultural landscape. Many locals see themselves as custodians of their “own past”, including the WWII legacy, wish to control access and engagement with the sites in their local landscape, and often feel that the authorities neglect their heritage. Thus, the traces of German presence have become one symbol of the continuing north-south confrontations, and the marginalization of the north. These issues tie in with Lapland’s long colonial history. The vast differences in engaging with the German WWII material remains appear to derive from fundamentally different mental templates with which the people perceive the subject and its importance. The people propagating the “clearing” of “war junk” appear to approach the subject, and the landscape, with a “western” gaze, and draw a division between “nature” and “culture” which labels the locals’ historical cultural landscape as a natural wilderness. Conversely, in the northern environmental awareness it is not meaningful to separate “nature” and “culture”, and instead, the landscape and its various layers form a web of relations, which tie together the past, present and future into a cognitively controlled and embodied unity. It appears that the different stakeholders should come to recognize and accept the differing standpoints from which they engage into the discussions, before a fruitful dialogue can be instigated.

Tämä väitöskirja käsittelee arkeologisten ja monitieteisten tutkimusten kautta saksalaisten toisen maailmansodan aikaisen sotilaallisen läsnäolon materiaalista kulttuuriperintöä Suomen Lapissa. Natsisaksan joukkojen läsnäolo aseveljinä Pohjois-Suomessa on ollut sodanjälkeisinä vuosikymmeninä vaikea ja vähätelty aihe. Tämä työ on ensimmäinen laaja-alainen, teoreettisesti suuntautunut tutkimus saksalaisjoukkojen materiaalisten jäänteiden arkeologiasta, materiaalisuudesta ja perinnöstä Suomen Lapissa. Tämäkin tutkimus kuitenkin raaputtaa vain hieman tämän monikerroksisen aiheen pintaa ja tarjoaa tulevia tutkimussuuntia. Toisen maailmansodan kokemukset Lapissa erosivat merkittävästi muusta maasta. Saksalaisjoukoilla oli rintamavastuu pohjoisessa 1941–1944 ja enimmillään alueella oli enemmän saksalaisjoukkoja ja heidän monikansallisia vankejaan kuin paikallista väestöä. Suomen tehtyä tulitauon Neuvostoliiton kanssa 1944, entisten liittolaisten välille puhkesi Lapin sota (1944–1945). Koska saksalaisten läsnäoloa on pitkään vältelty kansallisella tasolla, myös pohjoissuomalainen ja saamelainen sotakokemus on jäänyt syrjään. Vastaavasti saksalaisten materiaaliset jäänteitä on usein vähättelevästi nimetty ”sotaromuksi”, joka sotkee Lapin luonnon. Paikallisille nämä jäänteet ovat kuitenkin olleet tunnettuja ja tärkeitä läpi vuosikymmenien osana paikallista kulttuurimaisemaa sekä yhteisöllisten ja yksilöllisten muistojen aktiivisina materiaalisina ilmentyminä. Tällä työllä on kaksi päätarkoitusta. Ensinnäkin tutkin saksalaisten ja heidän vankiensa sodan aikaisia kokemuksia Lapissa materiaalisten jäänteiden ja arkeologisen tutkimuksen avulla. Toisekseen selvitän tapoja, joilla eri yhteisöt ovat merkityksellistäneet näitä jälkiä sodan jälkeen. Materiaaliset jäänteet heijastelevat monilla tavoin saksalaisten ja heidän vankiensa sotakokemuksia vieraassa pohjoisessa ympäristössä. Sodanjälkeiset näkemykset saksalaisjäänteiden merkityksestä alleviivaavat niiden sosiaalista arvoa osana paikallista pitkän aikavälin kulttuuriperintöä ja –maisemaa. Monet paikalliset näkevät itsensä ”oman menneisyytensä” vartijoina ja toivovat voivansa valvoa ulkopuolisten toimintaa sota-aikaisilla kohteilla. Lisäksi he usein kokevat, että viranomaiset ylenkatsovat heidän kulttuuriperintöänsä. Tämän johdosta saksalaisten jäljet maisemassa ovat muodostuneet myös nykyisen Pohjois- ja Etelä-Suomen vastakkainasettelun sekä pohjoisen marginalisoinnin symboleiksi. Nämä näkemykset heijastelevat myös Lapin pitkää kolonialistista historiaa. Erilaiset tavat lähestyä saksalaisten toisen maailmansodan jäänteitä vaikuttavat olevan lähtöisin perustavanlaatuisista eroista maailmankatsomuksessa ja tavassa tulkita maisemaa. ”Sotaromun puhdistamista” kannattavat henkilöt näyttävät lähestyvän aihetta ”länsimaisella” katseella, joka vetää rajan ”luonnon” ja ”kulttuurin” välille. Tämä leimaa samalla paikallisten historiallisen kulttuurimaiseman tyhjäksi, luonnolliseksi erämaaksi. Toisaalta pohjoisessa ympäristötietoisuudessa ei ole mielekästä erotella “luontoa” ja “kulttuuria”. Sen sijaan maisema ja sen eri kerrostumat muodostavat kognitiivisesti kontrolloitujen ja kehollistuneiden suhteiden kokonaisuuden, joka sitoo yhteen menneen, nykyisen ja tulevan. Eri toimijoiden tulisikin tiedostaa ja hyväksyä toistensa eroavat lähtökohdat, ennen kuin he pystyvät rakentavaan keskusteluun aiheesta.

Journalist-researcher meeting at the University of Helsinki

Oula Seitsonen has been asked to present this week our studies for the science journalists from the Helsingin Sanomat and Tiede magazines, in a journalist-researcher meeting at the University of Helsinki. This informal get-together presents the wide range of research carried out at the moment in the humanities, from our WW2 material culture studies to linguistics research and Ancient Near Eastern Empires.

New on our YouTube Channel: Suzie Thomas talking about the research at the Cultybraggan PoW camp, Scotland

We have brand new content on the Lapland’s Dark Heritage YouTube Channel:

Suzie Thomas is talking in an in-depth interview about the community archaeological research at the Second World War Cultybraggan PoW camp for German prisoners of war in Scotland, and the heritage aspects of the site. This is a joint research project between the University of Helsinki and the University of Glasgow Centre for Battlefield Archaeology. Research at the Cultybraggan camp is directed by Dr. Iain Banks who has also been working several times with us in Lapland. Suzie’s fieldwork was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh / Caledonian Research Fund European Visiting Research Grant. Filming by Mousehole Films. Editing by Wesa Perttola.