Kierikki Stone Age Centre

Leena Lehtinen

director of the centre

The Kierikki Stone Age Centre

Pahkalantie 447 FIN-91200 Yli-Ii Finland

www.kierikki.fi

Presentation of Kierikki Stone Age Centre

Kierikki Stone Age Centre and adjoining Stone Age Village present a unique combination of Finnish prehistory and modern architecture. The centre is owed and run by the Yli-Ii municipality.  It is located 55 km NE from the city of Oulu, on the northern bank of river Iijoki. The centre itself lies in the middle of an extensive Stone Age settlement area dated to 5000-3000 BC. Besides the modern main building and a Stone Age Village with Trapline path there will also be in summer 2004 a Stone Age fishing site and a hotel for visitors use.

The Kierikki Stone Age Centre was opened to the public in September 2001 and in two years it manages to get two important architectural awards: The Best Building  Act  of the year 2001 in Northern Finland and The Finnish Wood Award 2002. In May 2003 Kierikki got two important awards: First the Europa Nostra -awards and European union Top Prize in category of archaeological sights. And a week after that Kierikki got as only representant from Scandinavian a special commendation at the European Museum of the Year competition 2003.

In the main building there are an auditorium as a cultural hall and conference location up till 150 peoples, restaurant, meeting room, temporary exhibitions and a museum shop offering unique handicraft works based on prehistoric finds. The permanent exhibition and the outdoor sights show the ancient life of Northern Finland between 5000-3000 BC. An exhibition and the hands-on activities offer a fascinating view of how people lived and worked in ancient Finland.

THE BACKGROUND OF THE CENTRE AND LANDSCAPE WORKS

In the Neolithic time c. 5000-3000 BC, Kierikki was a region with abundant natural resources.  The local economy was characterised by extensive seal hunting and trading. Traces of the Stone Age have survived in the form of hundreds of dwelling remains, a few dozen of which have been excavated by archaeologists. The excavations from the beginning of 1960acute;s up till year 2000 have produced thousands of finds.

The remains of Neolithic settlement have been preserved nearly untouched in the 10 kilometres long area following  the River Iijoki stretching from the village of Yli-Ii eastwards to the Pahkakoski Rapids. This complex which has different phases of settlement and also different type of houses constitutes one of the most important archaeological sites in Finland. Particular for archaeological findings at Kierikki are remarkable rectangular house rows with log frames. The individual family units were joined by corridors, almost three metres wide. The terrace houses contained 5-7 units and were up to 60 metres long.

Archaeological research in Yli-Ii began in 1960 in connection with the harnessing of the River Iijoki for hydroelectric power. The Kierikkisaari site produced an extraordinary collection of archaeological material. The finds included amber artefacts, imported flint and slate objects, and a type of asbestos-tempered pottery that became known as "Kierikki ware".

After these very productive excavations, several smaller ones were carried out in the 1970s and 80s. In 1993, archaeologists from the University of Oulu discovered the rich Kuuselankangas site, and a few years later the prehistoric wood deposits of Purkajasuo Bog. Since then, the region has been the focus of continuing archaeological research under the combined auspices of the University of Oulu and the National Board of Antiquities. This research history is told to the visitors in a film that is shown in the auditorium of the centre.

When the Kuuselankangas dwelling remains were found in 1993, both the archaeologists and the authorities understood the importance of the Kierikki area. In year 1995 the municipality of Yli-Ii grounded the so-called "Kierikki project" the aim of which was to create the Kierikki Stone Age centre with outdoor museum and adjoining sites.

During this project the municipality, in co-operation with several other authorities, carried out an important project in 1996-2001 resulting in the Kierikki Centre, an open-air museum with a reconstructed Stone Age Village and a trapline path. The municipality also approved the general plan of the Kierikki area in 1999.  The aim of this plan is to protect the unique archaeological sites at Kierikki.

The massive main building, now the largest modern log building in Scandinavia and was constructed  2000-2001 and opened to the public on 9.9. 2001. Most of the funding - which is purely national money - came from the local North Ostrobothnian Employment and Economic Development Centre.  The exhibition of the Kierikki Centre is based on research and archaeological finds and there the EU-funds were 80 % of the total costs. The exhibition gives a wide overview of the prehistory in the Kierikki region and the northern river valleys in general. In year 2002 there were almost 25 000 visitors in Kierikki, over 4000 of them were schoolchildren.

LANDSCAPE WORK AT KIERIKKI AND RESEARCH RELATING THERETO

Landscape work at Kierikki is based on a project plan passed by the Yli-Ii municipal council in 1997. The project plan encompasses the whole project, including extensive landscape work. The landscape work includes the reconstructed dwellings of the Stone Age Village and the Trapline Path. Since 1998, all building investments connected with the Kierikki Stone Age Centre have been carried out according to the project plan and the Stone Age village is based on excavations at Kierikki itself. Only the visitors accommodations planned next to the main building have yet to be built and according to the final decisions made in June 2003, it is going to be built in 2004.

The goal of the landscape work is to produce an interesting site that showcases the Stone Age milieu. Protecting the area's archaeological remains and natural environment has been a prime consideration throughout. The kilometre-long boardwalk traversing the area is made of untreated, environment-friendly lumber. The boardwalk, which offers an easy route around the site, is intended to channel visitor traffic so that the environment and archaeological remains in the area are not eroded by trampling. The boardwalk has been built over ground, without disturbing the topsoil. The main building of the Centre was built of logs to ensure that an environment-friendly approach would prevail in all building. The purpose was also to demonstrate how the traditional Finnish art of log building could be showcased in a modern way.

All landscape work has been carried out by the North Ostrobothnia Regional Environment Centre (the local environment authority) with the help of local craftsmen. Funding for the landscape work, a total of c. 1.5 million euros, came from EU funds allotted by the North Ostrobothnian Employment and Economic Development Centre.

The National Board of Antiquities carried out test excavations at the planned site of the Centre's main building in 1998 in order to insure that the construction work would not harm archaeological remains. When the location of the main building had been decided upon, the Department of Roads moved the nearby highway 200 metres further off in order to insure that visitors to the Centre - frequently including busloads of schoolchildren - could disembark safely. The architecture of the Centre and the grounds takes into account the needs of the physically handicapped, so that all facilities - including the Stone Age Village and the Trapline Path - are accessible by wheelchair without assistance.

TIMETABLE OF THE CONSTRUCTIONS

  • 1998-99: Construction of the Stone Age Village, the boardwalk, and the Trapline Path. The houses of the Stone Age Village are based on archaeological excavations at Kierikki and on experimental archaeology. Ethnographical examples of the traditional buildings of the Saami and other Finno-Ugric peoples were also studied.

The Stone Age Village was built on the shore of the Iijoki River, on former river-bottom land that contains no archaeological remains. Five houses were built in the Stone Age Village in 1998-99, supplemented in 2002 by a reconstruction of a "terrace house" (a "row house") based on an actual example excavated at Korvala site, close to Kierikki.   In 1999, a zoning plan was drafted for the whole area to ensure that the archaeological remains at Kierikki would be preserved and to restrict construction to areas where it would cause the least harm to the environment. 1999 was also the year of the design competition for the main building of the Centre, eventually won by the entry of professor Reino Jallinoja that same year.

  • 2000: A service and maintenance building some 132 sq. metres in size was erected next to the Stone Age Village. It contains public lavatories, dressing rooms, a kitchen, and storage facilities. The building facilitates various kinds of services for the visiting public, including dining and programmes. The same year, work was also begun on the main building and planning of the exhibits commenced. The main building and its exhibition were built.
  • 2001: Main building was opened to the public in September 2001. Landscaping works of the surroundings of the main building, including the levelling and surfacing of the parking areas, the setting up of outdoor lighting, and landscaping a nearby sand pit into a pond.
  • 2002: The terrace house was built in the Stone Age Village. Information signs were erected and landscaping of the sand pit as well as thinning of the forest continued.
  • 2003: The area has been added to through the building of a Stone Age fishing site and renovation of the Trapline Path.
  • 2004: Building up a hotel for 50 visitors with sauna and meeting room close to the main building.

The milieu of the Kierikki Centre will never be completely finished; it will be repaired and augmented annually. The purpose of the area is to introduce the public to an important group of archaeological remains and to enliven prehistory in an interesting way. Today, the Kierikki Stone Age Centre is clearly the largest prehistory centre in Finland as measured by total financial investments (more than 4 million euros). The local importance of the centre is due to its location, more than 30 kilometres from the nearest main highway in a small township of only 2342 inhabitants.