Presently there are ongoing excavations in Ostrobothnia, in what is called the Wolf Cave in Kristiinankaupunki, or Kristinestad in Swedish. If confirmed, this site will be the oldest archeological site in Finland, and is likely to be the only Neanderthal, or pre-glacial, site found so far in the Nordic countries, around 130,000 years old.

The land area now known as Finland was first inhabited just after the Ice Age, from around 8500 BCE. In this section we will give a brief outline of the main periods of Finnish history from then onwards.

Suomusjärvi culture (8300-5000 BCE)
The first traces of homo sapiens in Finland are post-glacial and date from around 8,500 BCE. The period following their arrival, which saw an increase in population, is known as the Suomusjärvi culture. These people were most likely seasonal hunter-gatherers. At the beginning of the 20th century, under a layer of peat, a Neolithic, or Stone Age, site was discovered in Antrea on the Karelian Isthmus, less than 200km north of St. Petersburg. Among the items found was the net of Antrea, which is one of the oldest fishing nets ever excavated, as well as wood and flint implements, polished instruments of shale, remains of nettle fibres, 16 fishing floats of piney bark, 31 stone plummets, and a long bone dagger. Elsewhere in South Karelia around 20 dwelling sites were discovered, although to date few of these archaeological excavations have been studied. Among the artefacts found at these dwellings are stone spearheads shaped like willow leaves, chisels and axes, which indicate that the inhabitants hunted and fished to survive.

The Corded Ware culture (3200/2900-2300/1800 BCE)
The Corded Ware, or the Battle Axe, culture began in the late Neolithic (Stone Age), and flourished throughout the Copper Age culminating in the early Bronze Age. This period is also known as the Single Grave culture due to the shared practice of single burial under barrows, where the deceased was usually accompanied by a battle axe, amber beads and pottery vessels. It was during this period that the use of metal was introduced to Northern Europe. The Corded Ware culture was a mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer culture.

The Iron Age
The earliest discoveries of Finnish ironwork and imported iron blades have been dated to around 500 BCE. There are indications that the exchange of goods over long distances began in coastal areas of Finland began around 50 AD, when local inhabitants began to trade their wares, most likely furs, for weapons and ornaments with Scandinavians and Balts, as well as with folk along the more traditional trade routes to the East. There existed in Finland at this time a chiefly elite, as can be seen from the many burial grounds that were richly furnished in some parts of the country.

It was towards the end of the Iron Age, and during the early Medieval Age, that there was a spreading of hillforts across the southern regions of Finland. Linguists believe that it was likely that during the Iron Age the three main dialectal groups of Finnish speakers emerged. These are the Finns, Karelians and Tavastians. Excavations in the Åland Islands have shown that the archaeological culture of the islands had a decidedly more Swedish character than the mainland, which would suggest Scandanavian settlement.

The Middle & Viking Ages
Finland was one of the very last places in Europe to have Christianity introduced, where the first influences appear, based on etymological evidence, to have come from the East and the Orthodox tradition. The first signs of Christianity are found in burial sites dated to the 11th century, when objects with obvious Christian connections were found, including crucifixes and swords with Latin engravings such as 'In nomine Domini' and 'Dominus Meus'. As would become a noticeable theme throughout the rest of Finland's history, the country found itself positioned between two cultures destined to clash - the Russian christians who followed the Greek Catholic (or Orthodox) faith and Sweden which was loyal to the Catholic Church of Rome. There had already been considerable contact between Finland and Sweden before Christianity; the Finns were in contact with the Vikings both through trade and the Vikings invariable habit of plundering. The evidence of this trade is plentiful in archaeological digs, and includes silver coins from the Arabian peninsula as well as weapons and jewelry. However, there is no evidence of any Viking settlements on the mainland, although archaeological evidence proves that they settled on the Åland Islands.

Finland and the Finns were mostly unknown to Europeans during the Viking Age, with the exception of Swedes and Gotlanders, who would have known that Finns and Saami were different races. During this time the vast majority of Finns lived in the south of the country, in coastal settlements and along the shores of the numerous inland lakes. Eastern and Northern Finland were home to more nomadic peoples who continued the hunting and fishing traditions of the first settlers. These people may have been the ancestors of the Saami, or of some branch of widespread Finno-Ugrians.

Agriculture also developed in Finland during the Viking Age, with the cultivation of cereals such as wheat, rye, barley and oats beginning then. Near Turku, in Eura, where most of the richest Viking Age remains have been found, evidence of permanent fields has been discovered, but mainly the practice was to slash and burn. Archaeologists also were able to discover that Finns of this time kept the usual domestic animals - cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and horses. In some graves dogs have been buried with their owners, but no trace of any cat has been found so far. From the graves it is also clear that the bear played a signal role in the culture of that time; bears claws and teeth are found in the cremation cemetaries, and bears' teeth and pendants fashioned in bronze have also been found on the clothes of buried women, and on chains worn by them.

The Kalmar Union
Between 1397 and 1523 Scandanavia was united politically for the only time in its history under the crown of Denmark, as the Kalmar Union. The Union was the brainchild of Queen Margaret of Denmark, founded to give Denmark, Sweden and Norway a united front against German encroachment. Queen Margaret had gained the Norwegian crown through marriage, and had ousted an unpopular German king in Sweden by forming a strategic partnership with the Swedish nobility who had revolted.

The Kalmar Union was ever a tentative union, conflict and disagreement between the Danish monarchy and the Swedish nobility (who controlled Finland at the time) was rife. This period was one of frequent warfare between Denmark and Sweden, and within Sweden itself there was a continual struggle for power by competing nobility attempting to take hold of the Swedish crown. As a result of this struggle Finland was to suffer heavily, mostly from taxation by the Swedish nobility, but also because of wars fought on its soil and from a persistent disruption to its trade. Sweden diverted resources from the country's eastern borders which left Finland open to attacks from the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, which was expanding and would eventually become the Russian Empire. In 1478 Grand Duke Ivan III had taken control of Novgorod, which brought the might of Muscovy up to the Finnish border. In 1493, Denmark and Muscovy became allies with the aim of engaging Sweden in war on two fronts, and two years later Finland was invaded by Muscovite forces. In 1497 Sweden and Muscovy made peace, and the borders of 1323 were reinstated.

By 1523 Sweden had become a seperate state thanks to a revolt against the Kalmar Union led by Gustav Vasa, a Swedish nobleman, who became King Gustav I and founded a dynasty that would rule Sweden and Finland for over 100 years.

The Club / Cudgel War (1596)
In 1596 the peasants of Finland revolted against Swedish exploitation. They had become tired of the hardships they had been forced to endure the Russo-Swedish War of 1590-1595, and further enraged when they discovered that they would have to continue supplying the Swedish army with food, lodging and transport even after the Treaty of Tyavzino had been signed. To make matters worse, there were allegations that the Swedish military were abusing the taxation system by taking more than they were entitled to by force.

The war that ensued was named after the fact that the peasants couldn't afford Zweihander swords, lances, muskets or horses, and instead armed themselves with blunt instruments such as cudgels and maces. They succeeded in capturing Nokia manor and won a number of skirmishes against small cavalry forces, but were then defeated by Cas Fleming on January 1st and 2nd of 1597. The leader of the peasant revolt, Jaako Ilkka, was captured towards the end of January and executed. A second wave of insurgents were defeated on February 24th at Ilmajoki in the Battle of Santavuori. In total, some 3,000 people died during the insurgency, mostly peasants from the regions of Ostrobothnia, Northern Tavastia and Savo.

The Great Northern War and The Greater Wrath (1700-1721)
The Great Northern War began in 1700 when the Northen Alliance, a coalition comprised of Russia, Denmark-Norway, Poland-Lithuania, and Saxony launched an attack on Sweden for control of the Baltic Sea.

Peter the Great's galley navy successfully captured a small detachment of the Swedish navy in 1714 near the Hanko peninsula, which was the first Russian naval victory of the war. Between 1713 and 1714 the Russian army occupied most of Finland, having already taken the city of Vyborg in 1710. Finnish troops made their last stands in the battles of Pälkäne in 1713 and Napue in early 1714, in Isokyrö, Ostrobothnia. The military occupation of Finland by Russia that followed lasted until the treaty of Nystad, signed in 1721, and is known in Finland as the Greater Wrath.

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