Ristimäki in Ravattula is Finland’s oldest known church site. The archaeological studies of the site have provided a wealth of information about life at the turn of the Nordic Iron Age and the Middle Ages. The exhibition’s archaeological finds and the colourful costume reconstruction based on a grave find portray the life of the inhabitants of the Aura River Valley more than 800 years ago.
Ristimäki in Ravattula is located along the Aura River, about four kilometres upriver from the city centre of Turku in an area that is now a part of the city of Kaarina. In 2013, archaeologists found Finland’s oldest known church remains in Ristimäki, located in the middle of a field. The Ravattula Church was built at the end of the 12th century and fell out of use by the middle of the 13th century at the latest. The building was surrounded by a fenced area that served as the churchyard, where around 400 people are buried.
Researchers from the University of Turku, led by archaeologist Juha Ruohonen, excavated on Ristimäki in Ravattula between 2010 and 2016. In addition to studying the church building and the fence, the graves were also excavated. All the deceased were buried in graves, which, like the church, are oriented in the southwest-northeast direction. The graves date back to the Northern crusade period and the early Middle Ages (around 1050–1250), when it was no longer customary to equip the dead with weapons and utensils for the afterlife. The objects found in the graves include brooches and buckles used to fasten clothes or belts and colourful strings of pearls worn around the neck.
The exhibition presents three burials: a woman’s grave, a child’s grave and a spear-bearer’s grave. Finland’s tenth reconstructed Iron Age costume, the Ravattula costume, is also exhibited. Based on the finding from the woman’s grave, an Iron Age costume was produced, which was introduced to the public in the autumn of 2021. The reconstruction of the costume was preceded by a number of interdisciplinary studies, such as the study of the wool quality and dyes of the costume fragments, the archaeological analysis of the objects placed in the grave and the bone examination of the remains of the deceased. The exhibition also features fascinating finds from Ristimäki: a spearhead found in a man’s grave, a copy of it and the belt device that was part of the man’s costume, a reconstruction of a child’s coffin and the beads found in the child’s grave, as well as a miniature model of the Ristimäki Church and its surroundings.
Ristimäki is a fascinating piece of the early history of Turku, and the exhibition offers a glimpse of the early roots of the current settlement in the Aura River Valley.
The exhibition is scripted by archaeologists Juha Ruohonen and Jaana Riikonen. Implementation by archaeologists Juha Ruohonen and Jaana Riikonen and Aboa Vetus Ars Nova.