While travelling to Rauma with our friends Kaisa and Marianne, we decided to quickly look around at Sammallahdenmäki. This bronze age burial area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so we’d read about it in our guide book and thought it might be an interesting place…

Some warm bronze age mead for anyone?

It turned out that we’re arrived there at exactly the right time on the right day, as a local group was busy recreating scenes from bronze age and Viking cultures. They were very keen to share their knowledge, and soon had us taking part in their festivities. First, we tasted a bronze age drink made from raspberry leaves and forest honey, warmed in a hollowed out log by piping hot stones taken from a nearby fire (while I’m not sure about the recipe, the technique for warming the drink is genuine), and served in clay cups. Then we joined the Vikings vs. bronze age Finns competitions, which included trying to catch seabirds for supper (= hit a fake bird with a rock), before being taken for a guided tour of the site.

The Sammallahdenmäki has more than 30 burial cairns (most undisturbed), made during a period when this inland site was actually a small archipelago just off the coast. The two most well known cairns are the largest, on opposite ends of the site: the “church floor” (which we’d read about during our visit to the National Museum in Helsinki) and the “long cairn of Huilu” – you can find details from the World Heritage Site website or the National Museum website. Most interesting for me was that when one of the cairns was excavated it was found that hidden below the rough top layer of stones was a carefully arranged spiral stone pattern.

The "church floor" - one of the largest and most unique burial cairns at Sammallahdenmäki

In addition to the archaeological features,  the site is a really beautiful example of sparse pine forest on a rocky outcrop. Because the soil overlaying the rocks is so thin the only trees are fairly short pines, in this case surrounded by mats of reindeer lichens (Cladonia and Cladina species).

Many thanks to our guide (and her fellow history-buffs from Rauma) – if you are going to visit Sammallahdenmäki I would really recommend that you get yourself a guy to make the most of the experience (you can find contact details at the VisitRauma website).

 

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