Dr Anna Wessman

Visiting Research Fellow

I am an archaeologist from Finland. My love for archaeology started early at the age of six when I first visited the Finnish National Museum with my father. Little did I know then that the Comb Ceramic Pottery I saw there would entice me into to studying archaeology. I participated in my first digs as a teenager, namely at different Stone Age sites in southern Finland.


MA (University of Helsinki), PhD (University of Helsinki)


I started to study archaeology at the University of Helsinki in 1993. In 2000 I completed my MA thesis on the Viking Age or, to be more precise, the lack of Viking Age sites in the regions of Uusimaa (Swe. Nyland), Ostrobothnia (Swe. Österbotten) and the Åland Islands. During my studies I also worked for several years as a guide at the Finnish National Museum and I continued to work there after my graduation. This experience enabled me to study the artefacts on display more closely and I gained a deep insight on the material culture of Finnish Prehistory and the Late Iron Age especially.

In 2003, I started research on my PhD thesis entitled Death, Destruction and Commemoration. Tracing ritual activities in Finnish Late Iron Age cemeteries (AD 550-1150) at the University of Helsinki. During my PhD studies, I also participated closely in my Department’s teaching. I have delivered courses on Late Iron Age, Burial Archaeology and on Archaeological Ethics. I recently publicly defended my thesis with Professor Howard Williams as my opponent. I graduated in October 2010 and am currently working as an archaeologist and educator at the Espoo City Museum.


During my PhD studies I participated in the Huhtiniemi Project in Lappeenranta, SE-Finland during the years 2006-2009. I was the leader of the last excavation season in 2009. The project’s main goal was to find evidence for the alleged secret executions of deserted Finnish soldiers during the Second World War. There were persistent rumours that illegal military tribunals executed soldiers in Huhtiniemi during the summer 1944. The project was a collaboration between the Departments of Archaeology and Forensic Medicine at the University of Helsinki. During the excavations in October 2006, a mass grave was found consisting of 11 bodies and additional graves implying that the site was much larger. The project could credibly prove that the site did not belong to WWII but instead was a hospital cemetery during the first part of the 19th century. The bodies belonged to Russian soldiers who had died at this hospital.

My PhD thesis included five published articles and a summarizing essay. It focused on Late Iron Age mortuary practices and particularly on burials called Cremation cemeteries below level ground. These complex cemeteries are the dominant form of burial in Finland during Late Iron Age (AD 550-1150) and yet very little has been written of these sites until my research. The thesis explored the topographic character of these sites as well as on different aspects of commemorative practice taking place at these cemeteries. The thesis investigated cremation practices and cemeteries in relation to broader archaeological debates concerning death, memory and material culture.

One of my published articles (Levänluhta – a place punishment, sacrifice or just a common cemetery?) focused on human remains found from a watery location at Levänluhta in southern Ostrobothnia. Here, the remains of about a hundred human individuals have been deposited in a wetland together with artefacts during the Late Iron Age. My main goal was to deconstruct the previous interpretations of the site and to give it a new interpretation. I argue that Levänluhta was not as a sacrificial place as was previously believed but a "normal" cemetery for mainly women and children.

At the moment I am looking for funds to enable me to continue my work with the Levänluhta material in co-operation with the University of Helsinki. The study will be a multidisciplinary synthesis combining archaeological, geological, genetic and dating methods.

Published work


Wessman, A. 2010. Death, Destruction and Commemoration. Tracing ritual activities in Finnish.

Late Iron Age cemeteries (AD 550-1150). ISKOS 18. The Finnish Antiquarian Society. Helsinki.

Wessman, A. 2011. Våtmarksgravarna I Österbotten – mysterium på väg att Iösas? Populär Arkeologi 2/2011: 4-7

Journal Articles

Wessman 2009. Iron Age cemeteries and Hiisi sites: is there a connection? Folklore, vol 42 (2009):

7–22. (http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol42/wessman.pdf)

Wessman, A. 2009. Levänluhta – a place punishment, sacrifice or just a common cemetery?

Fennoscandia archaeologica XXVI: 81–105.

Wickholm, A. & Löwenborg, D. 2008. Dalamalmsvärdet. Muinaistutkija 1/2008. Suomen

Arkeologinen seura.

Wickholm, A. 2007. Millaisen kuvan sanomalehdet antavat arkeologiasta? In T. Mökkönen & S.-L.

Seppälä (eds.) Arkeologipäivät 2006, Arkeologi(a) ja media & mikä on muinaisjäännös?

Suomen Arkeologinen seura: 27–33.

Wickholm, A. & Raninen, S. 2006. The Broken People: Deconstruction of Personhood in Iron Age Finland. Estonian Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 10, 2. Tallinn: 150–166.

Wickholm, A. 2004. Pörnullbacken – ett brandgravfält eller brandgropsgravar? Muinaistutkija

4/2003: 47–51. Suomen Arkeologinen seura.

Wickholm, A. 2004. Fyndtomheten i Nyland under vikingatid och tidig medeltid. Merellinen

Perintömme/Vårt Maritima Arv. CD-rom.

Wickholm, A. & Raninen, S. 2003. Rautakautinen riesa – polttokenttäkalmistojen problematiikkaa.

Muinaistutkija 2/2003: 2–14. Suomen Arkeologinen seura.

Chapters in Books

Wessman, A. 2009. Polttokenttäkalmistot muistojen maisemassa. In T. Mökkönen & S.-L. Seppälä

(eds.) Arkeologipäivät 2008, Sosiaaliarkeologiaa – yhteisöt arkeologisen aineiston taustalla &

tutkimushistorian painolasti. Suomen Arkeologinen Seura: 30–37.

Wessman, A. 2009. Reclaiming the Past: Using Old Artefacts as a Means of Remembering. In A.

Šnē & A. Vasks (eds.) Interarchaeologia, 3. Papers from the Third Theoretical Seminar of the

Baltic Archaeologists (BASE) held at the University of Latvia, Latvia, October 5-6, 2007. Memory,

Society and Material Culture. Rīga – Helsinki – Tartu – Vilnius 2009: 71–88.

Wickholm, A. 2009. Dead men walking? In F. Ekengren & L. Nilsson Stutz (eds.) I

tillvarons gränsland: mångvetenskapliga perspektiv på kroppen mellan liv och död, University of

Lund, Department of Archaeology and Ancient history, Report Series. Nordic Academic Press.

Lund: 44–75.

Wessman, A. 2008. Die Wikingerzeit Finnlands. In S. Kaufmann(ed.) Die Wikinger.

Herausgeben von Historischen Museum der Pfalz Speyer. Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer.

München: 86–91.

Wickholm, A. 2008. Reuse in the Finnish Cremation Cemeteries under Level Ground – Examples

of Collective Memory. In F. Fahlander & T. Oestigaard (eds.). Materiality of Death

Bodies, Burials, Beliefs. BAR International Series1768: 89–97.

Wickholm, A. 2007. Commemorating the past. A Case of Collective Remembering from Alsätra

cemetery in Karjaa, Finland. In A. Merkeviĉius (ed.) Interarchaeologia, 2. Papers from the

Second Theoretical Seminar of the Baltic Archaeologists (BASE) held at the University of Vilnius,

Lithuania, October 21-22, 2005. Colours of Archaeology. Material Culture and the Society. Vilnius

– Helsinki – Riga –Tartu 2007: 107–116.

Wickholm, A. 2006. “Stay Where you Have been Put!” The Use of Spears as Coffin Nails in Late Iron Age Finland. In H. Valk (ed.) Etnos ja kultuur. Uurimusi Silvia Laulu auks. Muinasaja Teadus 18. Tartu-Tallinn: 193–207.

Wickholm, A. 2005. The cremation cemeteries under flat ground – a representative of what?

Interpretierte Eisenzeiten. Studien zur Kulturgeschichte von Oberösterreich. Folge 18.

Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum. Linz:31–40.

Popular articles

Wessman, A. 2010a. Rapusolki- muinaisuomalaista muotoilua. Löydöstä koruksi. Kalevalaisten

Liiton kulttuuri- ja jäsenlehti. Pirta 1/2010: 36–37.

Wessman, A. 2010b. Nousiaisten kultalöydön pitkä tie Lohikäärmekoruksi. Löydöstä koruksi.

Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja jäsenlehti. Pirta 2/2010: 30–31.

Wessman, A. 2010c. Tuukkalan hauta nro 26 – kalevalakorujen alkujuurilla. Löydöstä koruksi.

Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja jäsenlehti. Pirta 3/2010.

Wessman, A. 2009a. Halikon aarre. Löydöstä koruksi. Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja jäsenlehti.

Pirta 1/2009: 25–27.

Wessman, A. 2009b. Metsäpirtin rannerengas. Löydöstä koruksi. Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja

jäsenlehti. Pirta 2/2009: 32–33.

Wessman, A. 2009c. Uhtuan linturiipus. Löydöstä koruksi. Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja

jäsenlehti. Pirta 3/2009: 34–35.

Wessman, A. 2009d. Karjaan soljen salaisuus. Löydöstä koruksi. Kalevalaisten Liiton kulttuuri- ja

jäsenlehti. Pirta 4/2009: 32.

Wickholm, A. 2004. Seminarierecension: Kaupunkia pintaa syvemmältä. Arkeologisia näkökulmia

Turun historiaan. Seminarie på Åbo slott den 11.–12.12.2003. Glossae I/2004. Glossae r.y.

keskiajan opintoyhdistys.

Wickholm, A. 2000. Järnåldersbosättningen i Österbotten samt fyndtomheten i ljuset av

runstensdebatten. Arkeologi som ett försök att legitimera sin identitet. In M. Lindström, L. Mattson

& A. Pokela (eds.). Extremt Österbotten. Historicus r.f:s skriftserie vol. 14. Vantaa: 105–124.

Wickholm, A. 2000.Fyndproblematiken i Nyland under järnåldern. Terra Nova 4/2000. Nylands

Nation. Helsingfors.