A recently published study indicates that the material of the jewelry found with human remains in the Levänluhta burial comes from southern Europe, contrary to what researchers had previously thought.

The Levänluhta site, dating from the Iron Age in the region (300-800 AD, later than the Mediterranean), is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Finland.

About a hundred individuals, mostly women and children, were buried in a lake in Isokyrö, southwest Finland, during the Iron Age. Some of the deceased wore rings on their arms and necklaces made of copper, bronze, or brass alloy.

Location of the Levänluhta site / map by E.Holmqvist

According to researcher Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä, the origin of the metals used in these jewelry pieces was determined based on their geochemical composition and the lead isotopes of the objects. The jewelry of the deceased is typical of the Finnish Iron Age, so it is likely that they were melted in local workshops. However, it is unlikely that the metals used to make these objects originated from the region, as copper minerals had not yet been discovered during the Iron Age.

Until now, archaeologists have assumed that the copper used in the Finnish Iron Age mainly came from copper deposits discovered in southern Scandinavia. However, this interpretation has been questioned in recent years, as it has also been determined that the copper found in archaeological metal finds in Sweden is imported.

In a study conducted in collaboration with archaeologists from the University of Helsinki and the Geological Survey of Finland, the origin of the bronze and brass jewelry found in Levänluhta was investigated by comparing their geochemical composition and lead isotope ratios with known copper minerals in Finland, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The Levänluhta site / photo Kaj Höglund on Wikimedia Commons

The results show that the copper used in the objects was not from Finland or nearby regions but arrived in Finland through extensive exchange networks, most likely from southern Europe, according to Holmqvist-Sipilä.

Based on lead isotopic ratios, the copper in the objects originates from copper minerals found in Greece and Bulgaria. These regions produced a large amount of copper in the Bronze and Iron Ages, which spread throughout Europe in the form of gifts, war loot, and goods.

Metals were also recycled by melting old objects to turn them into raw materials for new molds. It is possible that the metals that ended up in Finland during the Bronze Age were recycled in the Levänluhta region.

Metal artifacts from the Levänluhta site / photo Finnish Heritage Agency

The results of this project, funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, demonstrate that products from the continental European copper exchange network also reached Finland through the Baltic Sea, connecting the region with the extensive copper exchange system that is known to have spread throughout Europe.

The results also illustrate the temporal and technological nature of prehistoric metal artifacts: raw materials reached here through various hands, probably after a long period of time and over very long distances.

In the local workshops, these internationally sourced metals were transformed into fashionable Iron Age jewelry, perhaps reflecting the local identity and residence of their wearer.



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