The Prehistory exhibition of the National Museum contains some of Finland’s most significant archaeological findings. Spanning a period of 10,000 years, the exhibition features 700 objects that have been selected to shed light on the lives of ancient people. We selected a few of them for these pages – do they tell more about us?

Prehistory refers to the time before literacy. The scientific concept of the prehistoric era was developed in the early 19th century, when prehistory was divided into the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages according to the material used in weapons. Choosing and finding the materials needed for objects required a lot of knowledge and skill from prehistoric people. Stone was the first important raw material for tools and other objects. The use of stone as a raw material for objects was also continued after the discovery of metals. Bronze and iron were discovered in the Middle East, bronze in the 31st century BCE and iron around 1500 BCE. Metals enabled the development of entirely new types of objects, such as swords, knives and daggers.

Only some of the materials used have been preserved to our day. In addition to stone, clay and metals, objects were made using all materials found in nature, such as leather, fur, bone, wood, bark and hay. However, only a few of these have been preserved. In Finnish soil, organic matter is only preserved in oxygen-free conditions, such as in clay soil and bogs. This is why there is little information about clothing in the prehistoric era, for example.

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