Archaeological knowledge and contemporary cities

Recent years have witnessed a growing trend in archaeological investigations of towns in Finland. Construction works in towns have led to a demand to study known archaeological town layers under contemporary street levels. In this session, we ask how the excavated archaeological data has increased our knowledge of contemporary cities. Is this knowledge brought back to urban dwellers or made visible in the townscape? Have the citizens been engaged in the archaeological processes or in the displaying of the results?

We invite papers with case studies or theoretical approaches to the role of archaeology in contemporary cities. The topics can include but are not limited to:

  • use of archaeological knowledge in city planning
  • displaying archaeology in cities via e.g., info signs, art, play and events
  • returning archaeological knowledge to citizens
  • archaeological citizen science and participatory projects in cities


Tiina Äikäs
Archaeology, University of Oulu

Titta Kallio-Seppä
Tornionlaakson museo – Tornedalens museum

Timo Ylimaunu
Archaeology, University of Oulu


The present role and future perspectives of urban archaeology in Finland

Liisa Seppänen

Since the end of the 19th century, practitioners of archaeology and archaeologists have revealed an abundance of evidence from the past centuries increasing knowledge and understanding of various cities and towns in Finland. Although, urban archaeology is often equaled with excavations related to construction and development projects in urban settings, urban archaeology covers a wide range of topics, approaches and research related practices to urban life and environments in the past and present. 

One of the aims of urban archaeology is to document and explain the multi-layered history and multifaceted structure of cities in a holistic way. This includes the development of towns and cities in the past as well as analyses of the cities today with different features and urban fabric. Hence, urban archaeology is not only restricted to studying the material remains and evidence found underground but also those still existing above the ground, including standing buildings, visible constructions, space layout, urban landscape as well as functions and population of the city. In this paper, I am discussing the definitions and conceptions of urban archaeology and the role of urban archaeology within the field of archaeology and urban research. Who defines the scope of urban archaeology and what could be done to change the prevailing conceptions if the change is needed and wanted? I am reflecting the ideas of more holistic approaches to urban environments where the past meets the present and forms the sustainable foundations for city planning and urban development in the future.

Large scale urban excavations in Turku – sharing the results with the public

Maija Helamaa, Tanja Ratilainen & Kari Uotila

This paper presents some recent large scale urban excavations conducted by archaeology company Muuritutkimus Oy and the interactions with the public. The excavation inside the Katedralskolan gym hall in 2017–2018 opened up a unique view to the ruins of the old town that burned down in the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. A pop-up museum was launched together with the Museum Centre of Turku to present the excavations for the public before the preserved remains were covered again. The accessibility to this “Pompei of Finland” was increased with various 3D-models shared on websites. The museum is currently monitoring the archaeological deposits and sharing the process on social media. In spring 2018, the largest excavations ever carried out in Finland started at the Turku Market Square due to the construction of an underground parking hall and renewal of the block. During the past five years, especially in 2018–2019, the excavation was attracting the citizens. The archaeologists were in the constant observance of bypassers when the remains of the 17th–18th Century town were revealed. Different methods of public archaeology were employed during the project, including an all-day open information centre funded by the City of Turku. The first book for the wide audience was published in 2021, and a second volume is in the making.

Urban paradise? The archaeology of inequality in a Nordic welfare state

Marika Hyttinen, Tuuli Matila & Oula Seitsonen

Finland is a modern Nordic welfare state and has a coherent national narrative about poverty and dispossession, or rather the inexistence of such social challenges. In this paper we examine a community that lived in Oulu, Finland during the post-war reconstruction period (1947-1987). The neighborhood called Vaakunakylä and the community that lived there were subject to eviction from their homes because the community was unfoundedly labelled criminal, restless and basically, unwanted. The archaeological record from the demolished site tells a very different story and affords the possibility of presencing inequality in Finland via the materiality of the vulnerable community that lived there. We work together with the former community to give them an outlet for their painful experiences, and work to reconcile past tensions between the city and the inhabitants.

Creating community – Citizen science at an urban excavation in Turku

Ilari Aalto & Janna Jokela

Urbanization is a global megatrend that continues to pose challenges for individuals fitting into a community. Community archaeology can be a way to address the social challenges connected with urbanization by strengthening the participants’ sense of being included in the story of their home city. In this paper, an ongoing urban community archaeology project in Turku is brought up as a case study. The Aboa Vetus Ars Nova Museum is situated in the middle of the old town of Turku. The archaeological section of the museum was constructed around medieval ruins in the 1990s, and archaeological activity has continued at the site ever since. For several years, the museum has organized archaeology courses and presented the excavations to the interested public. In 2018, the museum widened its’ community archaeology programme by including volunteers in both the excavations and in post-excavation activities. Over the years, this volunteer activity has been built up to the standards of citizen science. In 2020, the effects on wellbeing for both course participants and the volunteers were evaluated, and almost all participants felt that the experience had positively impacted their wellbeing. More importantly, the volunteers felt that partaking in the activity had deepened their relationship to Turku. The project had broadened the participants` idea of their home city to include not just the present but the past as well. Many community archaeology projects tend to rely on an existing community, while this case study shows that a community can also be successfully created through archaeological activity.

Selaa kaikkia työryhmiä