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The Ukonkivi on Ukonsaari Island in Lake Inari.

The Ukonkivi (Inari Sami: Äijih , German: Stein des Ukko) is located on the island of Ukonsaari in Inarijärvi (German: Inari Lake) in Finnish Lapland . The area around the island is called Ukonselkä. The Ukonkivi is considered a place of spiritual and cultural importance for the Sami . The island is 30 meters high, 50 meters wide and 100 meters long and can be seen from afar. It is located about 11 km northeast of Inari .

A place of cultural and spiritual importance

Archaeological and ethnological research has shown that Ukonkivi is a sacred place of the Inari Sami. The Ukonkivi belongs to the group of Sami sacrificial sites ( Sieidi ) where holy acts have taken place. The offerings consisted of meat, reindeer antlers, animal skulls and metal objects. The offerings were usually carried out in groups and were of a strongly social nature. As a rule, these natural sanctuaries were not changed by the Sami in the course of history, but only served to communicate with the deities of nature.

In the case of Ukkonkivi, it is a site in honor of Ukko , a major deity in Sami and Finnish mythology who was revered and worshiped as the god of thunder and weather. Usually shamans came into contact with him to appease him. Hunting luck and success in reindeer herding were hoped for through a ritual sacrifice. Women were not allowed to enter the island. As a woman Ukkos was Akka (also Kalku or G alku called) is considered, which is the feminine side of nature and an island in the southern part and a mountain on the western shore of Lake Inari is attributed.

The proselytizing of the Inari Sami by Christianity began around 1550 when the church expanded its presence in the region around Lake Inari. In 1647 the so-called The wilderness church of Pielpajärvi , which is located about 8 km from Ukonsaari Island and was probably built on an old Sami sacrificial site. By 1661 all seeds had been baptized, often under duress. In the course of the missionary work, the new Christian authorities also tried to remove the old symbols of the Sami belief in nature, such as the old sacrificial sites and especially the shaman's drums that were in use . Nevertheless, the old rituals of the Inari Sami persisted into the 20th century. There is evidence that the dead were buried on two burial islands in the immediate vicinity of the Ukonkivi until 1904. The custom of taking a boat to Inarjärvi and throwing a coin into the water to ask Ukko for wind has been handed down well into the 19th century.

It is undisputed that to this day the spiritual and cultural significance of the region around the Ukkonkivi is significant for the local population and the Sámi.

Archaeological research

The first written mention of finds on Ukonsaari can be found in the early 19th century in the writings of Jacob Fellmann , the famous Finnish botanist and priest. As part of his research trip to Lake Inari in August 1926, he found a cave on the island of Ukonsaari with a large number of reindeer antlers, which Fellmann identified as offerings.

More than 50 years later, in 1873, the young British archaeologist Arthur Evans found reindeer antlers laid in a semicircle in front of the entrance to the cave. Inside it hid a headdress made of silver, which came from Russia in the late Iron Age 1100–1200 BC. From the region of the rivers Kama and Vychegda. It is believed that it came to Sapmi through trade . The jewelry has been on permanent loan from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the Siida Museum in Inari since 1999 .

At the beginning of the 20th century there were further archaeological excavations by Finnish archaeologists (1910–1912, 1953, 1968 and 2006). In 1968, a team of archaeologists led by Anja Sarvas found another sacrificial cave on the western shore of the island, along with bones, antlers and teeth.

The last excavation took place in 2006. The task of this excavation was to locate the previous excavations and to prove acts of sacrifice. Again several bones of deer, reindeer, goats, sheep, capercaillie and black grouse were recovered. Most of the bones were brought back to the site after detailed cartographic documentation, and a few bones were removed for scientific purposes. With the help of the radiocarbon method , it was possible to date individual bone finds back to the 14th - 17th centuries. A silver coin from the 17th century, which was minted under Tsar Vasily IV at the beginning of the 17th century, as well as a fragment of a copper plate were found among artifacts . It was also found that ritual sacrifices had taken place on the west side of the island.

Efforts to preserve the cultural and natural heritage

The small island is used intensively by tourism, both in summer when there is a ferry service from Inari that brings tourists to the island several times a week. Tourists are also brought to the island on motor scooters in winter. There are also individual tourists who visit the island. It is estimated that 10,000 tourists visit the island annually. A difficult balance has to be struck between the benefits of tourism, ecological standards and the cultural rights of the Sámi. The option of issuing a ban on entry was also discussed in public, which the political representatives of the Sami affirmed but denied the tourism industry. In order to prevent the strong erosion of the island floor, caused by visitors and entering the sacrificial sites, sidewalks paved with wooden planks and corresponding signs were attached as a compromise proposal.

Several value systems characterize the area of ​​Inarjärvi, which has been designated as a Natura 2000 protected area by the European Union . Lake Inari is the third largest lake in Finland and is a habitat for numerous protected animal species (fish and water birds). Likewise, the Ukonsaari, as well as several other places in the immediate vicinity of the island, was and is a sacred site for around 7000 years and is currently an important symbol of the social and cultural identity of the autonomous Sámi population. Ecological, cultural and economic interests are opposed to one another.

In 1990 the National Committee on Antiquities (NBA) in Finland submitted an application to UNESCO to include Ukonkivi on the UNESCO World Heritage List . This application was postponed during the Arctic World Heritage Conference 2006 in Copenhagen with the recommendation to expand the application to a larger group of Sámi World Heritage sites. These include the following sites in the south and south-east of Lake Inari: the island of Ukonsaari , the mountain Kalkuvaara (worship of the Akka), two burial islands in Inarijärvi (Iso- and Pieni Hautuumaasaari), the wilderness church in Pielpajärvi , the mountain Tuulispää (worship of the wind god Pieggelma) and Mount battery (worship of Ardgöttin Akka) in the southeastern part of the Inarijärvis, the sgn. Ukonjärvi .

Web links

Commons : Ukonkivi  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Matti Marottoja: Anaras. The Inari Samis. SIIDA, 2006, accessed on August 13, 2017 .
  2. Anna-Kaisa Salmi, Tina Äikäs, Sanna Lipkin: Animating rituals at Sámi sacred sites in northern Finland. In: JHournal of Social Archeology .
  3. Yrjo Norokorpi: Ukonsaari Iceland and other old Sami sacred sites at Inari, Finland. Retrieved August 14, 2017 .
  4. Ukonsaari Island. National Parks Finland, accessed August 13, 2017 .
  5. ^ Jari Okkonen: Archaeological Investigations at the Sámi sacrificial site of Ukonsaari in Lake Inri. (PDF) 2007, accessed on July 13, 2017 (English).
  6. European Commission: Linking Natura 2000 and cultural heritage. Ukonsaari island, natural and spiritual home of the Sámi. Ed .: European Commission. 2017, ISBN 978-92-79-70164-1 .