How to use a trowel: Field school excavations at the University of Helsinki


  • Kristin Ilves
  • Tuuli Heinonen


Teaching excavations are an inextricable part of university teaching in archaeology. Students studying at the University of Helsinki were involved in university-led fieldwork from the very beginning of the establishment of archaeology institution. Students participated in excavations led by the first archaeology professor, Aarne Michaёl Tallgren, and thereafter students continued to be part of the fieldwork driven by acting professors and other university staff members. However, such excavations only started to occur on a more regular basis at the time of Professor Ella Kivikoski, especially from the end of the 1950s onwards. Moreover, it was not until 1976 that field school excavations were officially incorporated into the archaeology teaching curriculum. The 1970s also marked a shift to teaching excavations becoming less dependent on the professor’s particular research interest, a process leading to university field schools being organized in cooperation with externally funded research projects and contributing to the research driven by a larger variety of scholars. In this article, we provide a historical overview of the field school excavations at the University of Helsinki and reflect on both the pedagogical role of field courses and their practical value to Finnish archaeology, as well as on their academic relevance and impact.