Investigation of a hearth row site at Steintjørna, Pasvik, Norway

In August 2013 an international team of archaeologists continued the investigation of a hearth row site at Steintjørna, situated near the Norwegian-Russian border in Pasvik, Finnmark. The site is located next to a small tarn (Steintjørna) about 400 m west of the Pasvik River, in a coniferous forest environment typical for such sites.

The site consists of 8 rectangular stone-built hearths arranged in a linear pattern. Three of the hearths were excavated in 2012, while the five remaining hearths were excavated this year. Apart from the excavation, systematic sampling for soil chemical-/physical analyses (phosphorus, pH and magnetic susceptibility) was conducted in 2012 and complemented by additional sampling in 2013. The investigations are funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences.

One interesting feature observed at the Steintjørna site is the repeated pattern in bone refuse disposal. The distribution of bones shows a clear and systematic clustering to the area immediately to the east of the hearths. An identical spatial regularity in bone distributions has previously been observed at another investigated hearth row site in Pasvik, Brodtkorbneset (Hedman and Olsen 2009, Halinen et al. 2013). The phosphate analyses, mainly reflecting bone disposal, have produced soil signatures that very much are in concordance with these distributions.

Only the bone material from the 2012 excavation is analyzed and among the species identified at the Steintjørna site reindeer is the far most common.  However, bones from sheep/goat, western capercailzie and hazel grouse are also identified, in addition to fish species (whitefish, pike, and salmon).

Artifacts include knives and arrowheads of iron; cut pieces of copper alloy, a copper needle, wet stones, a lead weight and a glass bead. Among the more rare finds from this year is the head of a bronze horse-shaped pendant found in hearth 8. An identical horse-head fragment was found the previous season in hearth 3.

Another remarkable result is the finds related to metal processing. In association with one of the hearths (hearth 2) more than one kg of slag was found, and also two of the other hearths yielded such traces of metal work.  Recently conducted archeo-metallurgical analyses suggest unusual complex metal processing, involving a mixture of copper and iron. Continued studies of this material promise completely new knowledge of early metal work in Sámi and northern contexts.

In September the archaeological fieldwork continued at the Östra Hobergsträsket site in central Lapland, Sweden. Here a group of 6 hearths organized in a linear pattern was investigated.  In contrast to the stone-filled hearths at Steintjørna, these are “open” hearths marked by a rectangular stone frame. In terms of organization, form and size, however, the sites have much in common. More information about this site will be posted later

Hearth five layer one

Hearth five layer one

Hearth five layer two

Hearth five layer two

Documentation hearth five

Documentation hearth five

Metal slag found near hearth

Metal slag found near hearth

Hearth seven layer two

Hearth seven layer two

Hearth three

Hearth three. Notice the bone deposit at the upper end of the hearth.

Intensive documentation of hearth eight.

Intensive documentation of hearth eight.

After the excavations. Reconstructed hearths

After the excavations. Reconstructed hearths