Seven Archaeological Layers along Hämeenkatu

NEWS | Published: 10.8.2017


Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum’s archaeological excavation and supervision in the basement of the office building ‘Konsulinna’ have ended. The building is located in the corner of Hämeenkatu and Nunnankatu, in the same lot as the museum itself. Mixed in with the landfill were structures, debris and objects from several different centuries. The unearthed structures were documented and any found objects safely archived. Research on the excavation site was conducted through 3D documentation, which was also used to produce an animated presentation.

 Konsulinna was built in the 1830s and any prior development on the lot was largely unknown until the excavation. Research has uncovered new information on the history of the location. The excavation site is significant due to its state of remarkable archaeological preservation. Archaeological supervision of mechanized digging does not usually unearth findings on multiple vertical levels, but the excavation under Konsulinna resulted the discovery of at least seven archaeological layers.

Earlier research has proven that the area has been lived in continuously from the 12th century onward and that its denizens in the 17th century were german-speaking burghers of influence. The area was divided by a narrow cross street up until the 19th century. The guildhall of the Guild of Saint Nicholas has also likely been located on the same lot.

Oldest structures from the Middle Ages

Several wooden structures were documented in the medieval cultural layer. The walls and supports of these timber structures were sampled for ring dating. The oldest samples were dated to the 13th century, making these some of the oldest dated habitation structures in central Turku. Other areas in the Rettig lot, in the environs of Aboa Vetus, have also been dated to the 13th century.

Fires and conflicts

Wooden construction on the lot was followed by at least one stone house, presumably in the 16th century. The cobbled cross street next to the house was also made during this time.

The 16th and 17th centuries were a time of numerous large fires and conflicts. This was also evident in the findings of this excavation, including the remains of a burnt timber building. It also seems like the only stone house discovered in this excavation had been demolished due to city-wide damages. The restlessness of these times is also illustrated by a large, fractured cannonball dated to the 16th century.

Fewer finds after the Great Northern War

During the Great Northern War (1713 to 1721) the Konsulinna lot was most likely abandoned and left to crumble. The only discovered remnant of this period is a handful of Russian currency. Fewer objects from this period were archived than from earlier layers.

During the 18th century the area was turned into a walled courtyard, divided by a new pavement. By the end of the century the cross street was buried and two smaller buildings were built by the old street before the Great Fire of Turku in 1872. Discovered objects from this period include chalk pipes brought in through the Netherlands and imported porcelain from China.

Three-dimensional documentation in archaeological research

Archaeological excavations usually operate by erasing more recent layers to make way for those deeper beneath. The excavation of Konsulinna was conducted with the aid of three-dimensional documentation, which allowed a new way of recording these unearthed layers. This 3D documentation, based on detailed photographs, makes for faster research and a significantly more detailed analysis of the material. It also presents new opportunities for presenting these archaeological findings. 3D archives can be used to produce photorealistic animations from different phases of the excavations and a bird’s eye view of the excavation area.

This archaeological supervision was performed in conjunction with the piling of the museum’s office building, which included the removal of landfill in the basement. The building, known as Konsulinna, was built between the 1820s and the 1830s. It was later expanded several times, in 1878, 1895 and 1940. The building has architectural, cultural and locational significance. The Rettig family came to own Konsulinna in 1848 and the name itself came from its last resident, the counsellor’s widow Anna von Rettig.

Video production: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova

Script, 3D models of the excavation, voice-over: Kim Krappala
Video and audio: Teemu Tuovinen
Graphics: Jari Nieminen
Cityscape: Google Earth