Masku Mäksmäki. Kuvaaja: Teija Tiitinen

Protecting the archaeological cultural heritage

Ancient relics are protected as reminders of our country’s earlier inhabitants and history. They are the only existing source material from the prehistoric period and a vital part of the study on historical sites and objects.

Ancient relics form the oldest datable element in the cultural landscape and therefore also the reference point for studying the various sections of the landscape. Many stationary relics, once they are restored, maintained and marked with a sign, function as notable sights and teaching locations.

Archaeological cultural heritage also includes younger structures and sites that are not, according to the Finnish Heritage Agency, considered stationary relics as defined in the Antiquities Act, but whose preservation is deemed justifiable due to their historical importance and cultural heritage values. Proposals for the preservation of such cultural heritage entities may be made through town planning, for example.

The Finnish Heritage Agency, several provincial museums and some city museums monitor the effects of land-use planning on stationary relics and other archaeological cultural heritage. The museum authorities provide statements regarding the protection to landowners, municipalities, planners and other authorities. The Finnish Heritage Agency organises and monitors all archaeological surveys required for the protection work.  

Ancient relics are protected by the Antiquities Act (295/63). According to this Act, all ancient relics are protected as reminders of Finland’s earlier inhabitants and history. Without permission issued under the Act, it is forbidden to excavate, cover, alter, damage or remove ancient relics or disturb them in any other way.

The Antiquities Act automatically protects all stationary relics governed by the Act and prohibits activities that might endanger the preservation of a relic. Stationary relics do not have a specific age limit. The Act covers both prehistoric and historical entities. The youngest items on the protection list are the defence equipment from World War I. The Finnish Heritage Agency is in charge of the protection of entities located on land, underwater and on the shores.

The Antiquities Act decrees that anyone planning a public land-use project or a town plan must identify the potential effects of their plan to a stationary relic. According to law, the party realising a public or a large private project must provide the funds for the necessary surveys required by the project. According to the Land Use and Building Act, other archaeological cultural heritage can also be taken into account in addition to stationary relics.

If, during excavation work, a stationary relic is discovered, the Act decrees that all work must cease and the Finnish Heritage Agency must be notified. Field inventories for relics are made and the entities marked on plans of different levels regularly so that these situations, disruptive to the developers and landowners, would not occur.

Read more:

Arkeologisen kulttuuriperinnön opas (‘Guide to archaeological cultural heritage’, in Finnish).
Historiallisen ajan kiinteät muinaisjäännökset (‘Stationary relics from the historical period’, in Finnish).
Suomen arkeologisten kenttätöiden laatuohjeet (‘Quality instructions on archaeological field work in Finland’, in Finnish).
Arkeologinen kulttuuriperintö ja kaavoitus (‘Instructions regarding archaeological cultural heritage and town planning’, in Finnish).