Aboa Vetus – Old Turku

Aboa Vetus, the only archaeological museum in Finland, is a town quarter discovered underground. The ruin area of Aboa Vetus includes the remains of six medieval houses. The Convent Riverfront, one of medieval Turku's main streets, still runs through the museum area today.

The story of the museum began in the 1990s, as a result of archaeological excavations conducted on the site. The remains of the buildings were kept as they were found. Various historical layers can be seen in the ruins; these were also accepted as a natural part of the museum. The cellars of the medieval houses date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. After the Great Fire of Turku in 1827 majority of the city had to be rebuilt, and the ruins of the medieval city were buried underground. During the turn of the 20th century a spa called the Aura bathhouse operated on the plot. In 1928 the bathhouse was replaced with the Rettig palace, a prominent family home constructed by a tobacco manufacturer Hans von Rettig. The palace building’s premises have served as the museum of history and contemporary art, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova since 1995.

A grand stone-built quarter

Medieval Turku was divided into four districts. Aboa Vetus is located in one of the quarters. Turku was the second largest city in the realm of Sweden, and a lively center of trade, religion and administration. The district discovered in the excavation area of Aboa Vetus was known as the Convent Quarter; home of wealthy merchants and craftsmen who built grand houses of stone and bricks. Items found in the museum's excavations, such as pieces of ceramics belonging to tiled stoves, splinters of expensive glass or a lost gold ring, are signs of luxury only accessible to few.

Play, participate, discover!

With younger visitors in mind, activity areas have been placed in the exhibition. Here you can experience the techniques used in medieval brick-laying, use a stylus to create a wax picture or play a medieval board game. The archaeological exhibition Bony Tales allows the visitor to examine and identify the animal bone findings of the area.

The museum continues to conduct archaeological excavations, constantly providing more insight into life centuries ago.

Over a thousand kilograms of bones, small fragments and whole animal skeletons have been found in the Aboa Vetus area. This is the skeleton of a dog. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
Over a thousand kilograms of bones, small fragments and whole animal skeletons have been found in the Aboa Vetus area. This is the skeleton of a dog. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
The dollhouse demonstrates what the ruins of the stone houses in the museum area looked like during the Medieval period. In Aboa Vetus there are multiple places where knowledge can be deepened by playing, touching or examining. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen.
The dollhouse demonstrates what the ruins of the stone houses in the museum area looked like during the Medieval period. In Aboa Vetus there are multiple places where knowledge can be deepened by playing, touching or examining. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen.
A model of a merchant's stone house located in the same spot. The ruins of the house are visible to the side and its cellar can still be entered. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
A model of a merchant's stone house located in the same spot. The ruins of the house are visible to the side and its cellar can still be entered. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
One of Turku's medieval water wells was located in the museum area. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
One of Turku's medieval water wells was located in the museum area. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Jari Nieminen
Cannon balls discovered in archaeological excavations in the museum area. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Kim Krappala
Cannon balls discovered in archaeological excavations in the museum area. Photo: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Kim Krappala