The Ii Hamina cemetery reveals adaptation to the “Little Ice Age”

Related Articles

Related Articles

The medieval cemetery in Ii Hamina in northern Finland on the Iijoki river was originally discovered by accident. A recent study examined the isotope compositions of the teeth of the dead. It turned out that the population in the small village survived throughout the 15th and 16th centuries despite the Little Ice Age.

The cemetery at Ii Hamina was discovered in the course of pipe construction in 2009, after which archaeological excavation of the site began under Titta Kallio-Seppä. Based on the excavations, there are at least 290 people buried in the area.

Radiocarbon analyses and discovered objects suggest the cemetery was in use during the 15th and 16th centuries. During that time, Finland experienced a period of exceptionally low temperatures, known as the Little Ice Age.


The new study measured the hydrogen and carbon isotope composition from the collagen in the teeth of eleven individuals. The analysis of small partial samples of tooth bone reveal the kind of food the individual ate while alive.

Isotope composition shows researchers if the individual’s diet fluctuated, or if they experienced long-term physical stress such as hunger or illness. The isotopes reveal physiological stress, as stress factors such as poor nutrition change the isotope composition of hydrogen, which can be detected from the personal tooth archive of each individual.

The researchers only found such stress markers in one of the individuals, whose diet had been different from the others.

Based on the study, it seems that there was a way to survive in Ii Hamina, even though the climate during the centuries in question was colder than it is currently.

“Primarily, people would have a similar diet for years, from childhood to adulthood, with no surprising changes in the hydrogen isotope composition. This means that residents in the Iijoki region of the time had found a way to survive despite the cold climate,” says Researcher Maria Lahtinen from the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, which is part of the University of Helsinki.

One individual displayed variation in the isotope composition that was potentially attributable to poor nutrition, but the diet of this individual was exceptional in many ways when compared to the other individuals being studied.

Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki)

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Tenochtitlan – The Aztec Capital

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City.

Archipelago in Ancient Doggerland Survived Storegga Tsunami 8,000-Years-Ago

Doggerland, dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” is a submerged landmass beneath what is now the North Sea, that once connected Britain to continental Europe.

Cereal, Olive & Vine Pollen Reveal Market Integration in Ancient Greece

In the field of economics, the concept of a market economy is largely considered a modern phenomenon.

The Annulment of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon at Dunstable Priory

The Priory Church of St Peter (Dunstable Priory) is the remaining nave of a former Augustinian priory church and monastery, that today is part of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, located within the Diocese of St Albans in the town of Dunstable, England.

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Chetro Ketl – The Great House

Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings

The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America.

Rare Cretaceous-Age Fossil Opens New Chapter in Story of Bird Evolution

A Cretaceous-age, crow-sized bird from Madagascar would have sliced its way through the air wielding a large, blade-like beak and offers important new insights on the evolution of face and beak shape in the Mesozoic forerunners of modern birds.

Popular stories

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.