Finnish Prehistory »» Kuninkaanhauta, Kiukainen »» Visited: 12-2006 »» Compiled/Revised: 04-2008

+ Location on a map / Sijainti kartalla

Kuninkaanhauta, King's Grave, is the largest bronze-age barrow in Finland and likewise amongst the most eminent in the Nordic countries. The vast construction built merely of rocks is 37m long, 30m wide, and around 4m high. Its age is somewhat disputable in the light of new study methods: priorly it was assumed that barrows this large belong to the early Bronze Age only (c. 3500 years back), but now it has been proven that such monuments were also built when the tides turned towards the early Iron Age (c. 500 BC). A prehistoric dwelling site including remains of firepits and adobes with circular stone bases was discovered right beside the barrow in the excavations of 1987-88. This was specifically dated back to the later Bronze Age, which makes one wonder about the true nature of Kuninkaanhauta.

The barrow has not been studied, as such, so little is known about the monument's inner structures. It may include a burial chamber or chambers built from stone slabs. The common opinion is that the cairn's construction has been gradual: it may have been a family grave that was enlarged as the need arose, perhaps during several centuries. A wide fringe area heaped up from rocks alike surrounds the barrow. Kuninkaanhauta is estimated to contain 2000 cubic meters of stones, which would amount to about 250000 rocks with a diameter of 20cm. This requires a significant workload, and it is not clear whence the stones have been brought and whether some kinds of rituals have been performed during each casting.

The Panelianlahti bay area, where also Kuninkaanhauta lies, is exceptional for its number of massive bronze-age barrows. A more or less recent calculation on the very area produced a result of 120 tumuli, out of which 64 had a diameter of 10m or more. It is also interesting to note that the Satakunta province has sported several other barrows quite as large as Kuninkaanhauta, but they have become destroyed by a way or another during the centuries. Whoever found their last resting place inside Kuninkaanhauta undoubtedly belonged to an aristocratic lineage.

Here has to be mentioned again that the shores of the Baltic Sea appeared quite different in the Bronze Age. The Southern Finland now rising as an intact continent from the water was littered with islands, and the sea licked at the borders of the now continental Satakunta. Such a landscape filled with vast barrows must have been impressive in the eyes of tradesmen and immigrants arriving from elsewhere, telling that here dwells a rich and powerful people. This probably was indeed one of the purposes of the cairns, aside from ancestor worship and other religious aspects.

Quite a swarm of opinions has been knitted up about the origins of the barrow-builders of Finland. Namely, the phenomenon of large bronze-age cairns is not only typical to Finland, but similar structures spatter the eastern coast of today's Sweden from the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia to Skåne. Also Gotland and some parts of Norway are known for these. Usually when foreign media publishes information about the Nordic prehistory, here particularly about the Bronze Age tumuli, Sweden and Norway are presented in the brightest spotlight. Finland is nicely shunned and an impression is given that nothing significant resides here. Either this is caused by sheer ignorance or the unwillingness of local individuals and departments associated with archeology to properly document and inform larger audiences of prehistoric relics. The latter at least is an ongoing attitude in Finland, and it's sometimes frustratingly difficult to find any kind of written sources about studies pertaining to some particular site. Anyhow, earlier theories trying to explain the essence of the barrows named Geatish or Swedish immigrants as the builders. Later on it has been agreed that the monuments are of native Finnic make, even though the significant connection to the named foreign areas remain.

Here one might look a little into folklore, which is yet another avoided, if not altogether ridiculed, topic when it comes to archeology. Johannes Messenius interestingly dates the Finnic king Fornjotr (or Iku-Turso/Kaleva) and his sons afterwards having ruled as high kings in the turn of the Bronze and Iron Ages in 'Scondia' (Southern Scandinavia incl. Gotland), Kvenland (Ostrobothnia and the eastern coast of Sweden along the Gulf of Bothnia), and 'Northern Wends', which is later explained as being an antiquated name for the Baltic Finns.

Forniotus, circa sextum, ante Christum, seculum, borealibus             600.
dominatur Vandalis.
Karus illius filius, & â morte pro ventorum cultus Deo,
iisdem imperat.
Similiter rex Frosto, Kari filius, in Vandalia boreali,
rerum potitur.
Altera hoc tempore gentium turma per eandem egressa viam ex
Scondia, pulsis ex Ostrobothnia Vandalis, illam suis tradit uxoribus
inhabitandam, inde Quenland Scondicè, & Latinè, Terra Faeminarum,
Amazonumque, diu nincupatam. Sed viri talibus liberi impedimentis,
Russiam felicius impugnarunt.
Hoc circa tempus, regnat in Scondia, Quenlandia, & Vandalia,
rex Snore, annosus.
Rex Snore, Thoroni filiorum uni, tradidit moriens Sveciam,
Gothiam, Norvegiam, Quenlandiam, & Vandaliam.
Haec priscum sola retinuit nominis vocabulum; progressu tamen
temporis, valdè mutatum. Nam quae inprimis Venedilandia, &
Venelandia, suit dicta; dein per ignaros antiquitatis, vocatur Fenlandia,
& Finlandia, Finnoniaque.

The particular legend refers also to the Frost Giants, Jotuns. As to that, Ganander in his 18th century work Mythologia Fennica explains that

	-- Joter, the ancient name of the Finnish folk, wherefore Domalder 
[a legendary Swedish king] received the name Jota Dulgi, murderer of Finns. 
Of this the word Fornijoti [Fornjotr, Forniotus] also consists.

During those tides, the climate of the Northern Europe also dramatically changed from the warmer eras of the earlier Bronze Age. It is intriguing to string together such scientific facts and bits of folklore that seem indeed to have a lot in common. We have a climate change turning the weather much colder in the North, a Finnic folk called the Frost Giants, and a genealogy of kings ruling areas that have archeological ties. Aside from the possibility of these Finnic ancestors having had a somewhat larger stature than the inhabitants of mainland Europe (even a 10-cm difference in height will do the trick), undoubtedly the massive barrows also contributed to the legends. In Finland, especially, folklore tells that giants built the barrows which are even called hiidenkiuas, 'giant's sauna stove'.

Folklore also strongly suggests that the Baltic Finns, 'Jotuns', once inhabited most of Scandinavia, the coasts of the Baltic Sea, and even the northern parts of today's Germany. It has hard to tell what the situation was in the Bronze Age, but what evidence is there actually against the fact that the barrow-builders even as far as Southern Norway might have been Finnic? Old Norse has quite a few Finnish loans within anyhow, such as haug, which means 'grave mound'. It's very likely a dialectal shortening from the Finnish hautakumpu, 'grave mound'.

What is more, Kuninkaanhauta even bears the association to royalty in its name. If the kings in the legends have a historical basis, it might not be impossible that somesuch fellow was laid down into eternal sleep within, and even if his name has been forgotten, a faint memory still lingers. Kuninkaanhauta is also depicted in Kiukainen's coat of arms.

References / Lähteet:

Purhonen, Hamari ja Ranta, Maiseman muisti - Valtakunnallisesti merkittävät muinaisjäännökset, Museovirasto, 2001
Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander, Euran esihistoria, kalastajista kauppanaisiin, Euran kunta, 2000.
A local infotable set up by Museovirasto
Johannes Messenius, Scondia Illustrata Tomus X
Kristfrid Ganander, Mythologia Fennica, toim. Juha Pentikäinen, Recallmed, 2003.
Panelian hiidenkierros


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