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In a large part of Finland archaeological sites are typically located in forests. Stone Age settlement sites and Bronze Age burial cairns, in particular, often lie in commercial forests. Their maintenance requires getting acquainted with local forestry issues, and occasionally also cooperation with forestry professionals. Maintenance usually takes the form of opening up the landscape by thinning and removing trees from the archaeological structures, but the aims and practical measures vary from site to site.

Transporting timber in Rapola, Valkeakoski. Photo: Olli Soininen.









Transporting timber in Rapola, Valkeakoski.
Photo: Olli Soininen

Forest Thinning
From the point of view of site maintenance, forest thinning is usually a positive operation, since it makes the landscape more open and exposes the archaeological site to view. The aim of thinning the conifer-dominated forests around archaeological sites is usually to create a forest with a more varied species and age structure. All trees growing on the visible archaeological structures are felled, because their roots may damage the structures. Thinning should preferably be done by forestry professionals during the winter. Driving vehicles over the archaeological structures is prohibited and the work should be done with as light machinery as possible to avoid the development of deep tracks. Most of the potential problems can be avoided by employing a lumberjack with a horse. Horses do not damage the ground as easily as machinery does. Horses can also be used in areas that cannot be reached by machinery because of the rugged terrain.

Forest Regeneration
The recommended method of forest regeneration around an archaeological site is seed-tree or shelterwood logging. This protects the landscape and ensures natural regeneration. If clear-felling is necessary, the harm to the landscape around a small-scale archaeological site, such as a cairn, can be reduced by preserving a number of trees around it. Breaking the ground surface by plowing or scalping is forbidden on an archaeological site. The timber must be stored away from the archaeological site, and logging waste must be removed.

It is often sensible to divide forestry activities over several years to avoid sudden changes in the landscape and to more easily control the burst of growth that occurs in a newly cleared area as a result of an increase in soil nutrients and light. The new trees planted or sown should represent indigenous species well suited to the region. No trees should be planted on top of or in the near vicinity of the archaeological site. Forest regeneration activities often result in an increased growth of grass on top of the archaeological structures. Keeping the structures clean is therefore important. In connection with the initial thinning of the sapling stands it is important to ensure that there is as much space and visibility as possible around the archaeological structures.

The purpose of archaeological site maintenance is not to turn the surrounding forest into a museum piece or to preserve the site in a pristine state. Forest landscapes are transformed constantly; archaeological sites add depth and stratification to the landscape.

Forest thinning in Rapola, Valkeakoski. Photo: Olli Soininen.
Forest thinning in Rapola, Valkeakoski. Photo: Olli Soininen



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