(University of Helsinki, Finland)
Keywords: fieldwork data, re-evaluation, Middle Ages, history of research, Finland
The quality of old urban excavations can differ enormously from site to site, even if they are close to each other, and their fieldwork is more or less of the same age. In such situations data collection should be as detailed as possible. Yet it is also vital to know the history and aims of the fieldwork, and the contemporary intellectual context as well. This paper examines two sites as case studies. They are situated at a distance of two kilometres in Turku, Southwest Finland. The first site comprises the ruins of a 13th-century cathedral and bishop’s residence enclosed by a dry moat and embankment. Most of the area was excavated in 1898–1902. The second site is a Dominican convent, possibly from the 14th century, covered by the modern city structure. It has been investigated in several phases of fieldwork since 1901. Both sites are fundamental for understanding the urban history of Turku: the cathedral site as the predecessor of Turku, and the convent as one of the main factors influencing the urban development. The two cases show a stark contrast in the quality of fieldwork documentation and artefact preservation. Since they have remained without a synthesising modern study, the sites have become a bottleneck for further archaeological research. In the 2010s a team of archaeologists has begun to re-evaluate the data from the sites. The project has digitised and combined the old excavation maps, and created a digital database of the finds. The results so far have shown that the previous research was incorrect in assuming that the old excavations could not provide any new insights. Moreover, it has become apparent that this work is not only a matter of extracting information, but also of reconstructing the history of the fieldwork in detail.