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"Pot hunters" targeting archaeological sites

Evidence of illegal, clandestine excavations has been recently discovered at two of Finland's well-known prehistoric sites. Pits have been found at these separate locations, apparently the work of amateurs looking for ancient artefacts.

Rapolan muinaismuistoalue.
Image: Miinu Mäkelä / Pirkanmaan maakuntamuseo

Acting on a tip from the public, Finland's National Board of Antiquities has found a number of pits dug and then covered over in one of the graveyards associated with Rapola Castle, a prehistoric hill fortress in the municipality of Valkeakoski in Pirkanmaa. Earlier this spring, similar illicit digging was discovered at another hill fortress known as Hakoinen Castle in Janakkala. In both cases, there was damage to the archaeological integrity of the sites.

Board of Antiquities archaeologist Vadim Adel told Yle that an inspection at the Rapola site revealed about half a dozen pits that had been dug and covered over. It is uncertain if there are more.

"It is impossible to fully inspect such a large site. The ones we found are in an area where we were informed they would be. According to the report we received, an individual with a metal detector was seen moving about the area,”said Adel.

The Rapola site covers an area almost two kilometres in length and hundreds of metres wide and includes the remains of one of the country's largest prehistoric hilltop fortresses. There are also remains of Iron Age dwelling sites, cemeteries, farmed fields and sacrificial altar stones in the same vicinity.

The National Board of Antiquities has not yet decided whether or not the police will be called in to investigate and possibly track down the culprit or culprits. Experts have stressed, however, that these sites form a unified cultural milieu that is damaged by unauthorized digging or removing objects.

In mid-May, National Board of Antiquities reported a similar incident of dozens of pits having been dug at the Hakoinen site in Janakkala.

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