eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)


Full article in PDF format | doi: 10.3176/arch.2016.1.01

Ester Oras, Valter Lang, Eve Rannamäe, Liivi Varul, Marge Konsa, Jana Limbo-Simovart, Gurly Vedru, Margot Laneman, Martin Malve, T Douglas Price


There have been various explanations in archaeological literature about whether the earliest Bronze Age stone-cist graves and the first Pre-Roman Iron Age tarand graves in Estonia were built by locals or non-locals. As to possible immigrations, the stone-cist graves have been often related to Scandinavian populations, whilst early tarand graves allegedly had roots in eastern directions. The oldest known examples of these cemetery types are at Jõelähtme and Muuksi for stone-cist graves, and at Ilmandu and Kunda for early tarand graves, in the coastal zone of northern Estonia. In order to test the migration hypothesis we carried out a bioarchaeological study, measuring and mapping local biologically available Sr and O isotope ratios and analysing stable isotope signals of altogether eight individuals from these early stone-cist and tarand graves. The study material was chosen on the basis of the oldest AMS dates of skeletons available so far, or according to the earliest burial constructions in the cemeteries. Based on the comparison of local biologically available Sr and O isotopic baseline results and the results obtained from the individuals, we can talk about migrants in the case of two persons from Kunda and perhaps one from Muuksi, whilst most of the individuals analysed are of local origin. Thus, the idea of Early Metal Period migrations to Estonia from the surrounding regions is supported to some extent. However, the discussion of these migrations might turn out to be surprisingly different from what is expected on the basis of material culture. We also emphasise the importance of further analysis, especially mapping isotopic baseline data in the eastern Baltics, in order to draw further conclusions about the directions and extent of prehistoric migration in this region.


Bass, W. 2005. Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. Missouri Archaeological Society, Missouri.

Bentley, R. A. 2006. Strontium isotopes from the earth to the archaeological skeleton: a review. –Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 13: 3, 135–187.

Bentley, R. A. & Knipper, C. 2005. Geographical patterns in biologically available strontium, carbon and oxygen isotope signatures in prehistoric SW Germany. – Archaeometry, 47: 3, 629–644.

Bentley, R. A., Price, T. D. & Stephan, E. 2004. Determining the ‘local’ 87Sr/86Sr range for archaeological skeletons: a case study from Neolithic Europe. – Journal of Archaeological Science, 31: 4, 365–375.

Bläuer, A., Korkeakoski-Väisänen, K., Arppe, L. & Kantanen, J. 2013. Bronze Age cattle teeth and cremations from a monumental burial cairn in Selkäkangas, Finland: new radiocarbon dates and isotopic analysis. – EJA, 17: 1, 3–23.

Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. – Radiocarbon, 51: 1, 337–360.

Bronk Ramsey, C. & Lee, S. 2013. Recent and planned developments of the program OxCal. –Radiocarbon, 55: 2–3, 720–730.

Budd, P., Montgomery, J., Barreiro, B. & Thomas, R. G. 2000. Differential diagenesis of strontium in archaeological human dental tissues. – Applied Geochemistry, 15: 5, 687–694.

Budd, P., Millard, A., Chenery, C., Lucy, S. & Roberts, C. 2004. Investigating population movement by stable isotope analysis: a report from Britain. – Antiquity, 78: 299, 127–141.

Chatters, J. C., Kennett, D. J., Asmerom, Y., Kemp, B. M., Polyak, V., Blank, A. N., Beddows, P. A., Reinhardt, E., Arroyo-Cabrales, J., Bolnick, D. A., Malhi, R. S., Culleton, B. J., Erreguerena, P. L., Rissolo, D., Morell-Hart, S. & Stafford, T. W. 2014. Late Pleistocene human skeleton and mtDNA link paleoamericans and modern native Americans. – Science, 344: 6185, 750–754.

Chenery, C., Eckardt, H. & Müldner, G. 2011. Cosmopolitan Catterick? Isotopic evidence for population mobility on Rome’s northern frontier. – Journal of Archaeological Science, 38: 7, 1525–1536.

Chenery, C. A., Pashley, V., Lamb, A. L., Sloane, H. J. & Evans, J. A. 2012. The oxygen isotope relationship between the phosphate and structural carbonate fractions of human bioapatite. – Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 26: 3, 309–319.

Chenery, C. A., Evans, J. A., Score, D., Boyle, A. & Chenery, S. R. 2014. A boat load of Vikings? – Journal of the North Atlantic, 7, 43–53.

Denisova, R., Graudonis, Ya. & Gravere, R. 1985. = Денисова Р. Я., Граудонис Я. Я. & Гравере Р. У. Кивуткалнский могильник эпохи бронзы. Riga.

Dobat, A. S., Price, T. D., Kveiborg, J., Ilkjaer, J. & Rowley-Conwy, P. 2014. The four horses of an Iron Age apocalypse: war-horses from the third-century weapon sacrifice at Illerup Aadal (Denmark). – Antiquity, 88: 339, 191–204.

EREA 1956 = Eesti rahva etnilisest ajaloost. Artiklite kogumik. Ed. H. Moora. Tallinn.

Ericson, J. E. 1985. Strontium isotope characterization in the study of prehistoric human ecology. – Journal of Human Evolution, 14: 5, 503–514.

Eriksson, G. 2007. Immigrant, returnee or commuter? – On the Road: Studies in Honour of Lars Larsson. Eds B. Hårdh, K. Jennbert & D. Olausson. Almquist & Wiksell International, Stockholm, 188–192.

Eriksson, G. & Lidén, K. 2013. Dietary life histories in Stone Age Northern Europe. – Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 32: 3, 288–302.

Eriksson, G., Lõugas, L. & Zagorska, I. 2003. Stone Age hunter–fisher–gatherers at Zvejnieki, northern Latvia. – Before Farming, 1, 1–25.

Fischer, A., Olsen, J., Richards, M., Heinemeier, J., Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Á. E. & Bennike, P. 2007. Coast–inland mobility and diet in the Danish Mesolithic and Neolithic: evidence from stable isotope values of humans and dogs. – Journal of Archaeological Science, 34: 12, 2125–2150.

Frei, K. M. & Price, T. D. 2012. Strontium isotopes and human mobility in prehistoric Denmark. – Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 4: 2, 103–114.

Friedenthal, A. 1931. Ein Beitrag zur vorgeschichtlichen Anthropologie Estlands. – Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 63, 1–42.

Gregoricka, L. A., Betsinger, T. K., Scott, A. B. & Polcyn, M. 2014. Apotropaic practices and the undead: a biogeochemical assessment of deviant burials in post-medieval Poland. – PLoS ONE, 9: 11, e113564, 1–24.

Haak, W., Brandt, G., de Jong, H. N., Meyer, C., Ganslmeier, R., Heyd, V., Hawkesworth, C., Pike, A. W. G., Meller, H. & Alt, K. W. 2008. Ancient DNA, strontium isotopes, and osteological analyses shed light on social and kinship organization of the Later Stone Age. – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105: 47, 18226–18231.

Hofreiter, M., Serre, D., Poinar, H. N., Kuch, M. & Pääbo, S. 2001. Ancient DNA. – Nature Reviews Genetics, 2: 5, 353–359.

Hughes, S. S., Millard, A. R., Lucy, S. J., Chenery, C. A., Evans, J. A., Nowell, G. & Pearson, D. G. 2014. Anglo-Saxon origins investigated by isotopic analysis of burials from Berinsfield, Oxfordshire, UK. – Journal of Archaeological Science, 42: 1, 81–92.

Jaanits, L., Laul, S., Lõugas, V. & Tõnisson, E. 1982. Eesti esiajalugu. Eesti Raamat, Tallinn.

Kaislaniemi, L. 2011. Estimating the distribution of strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) in the Precambrian of Finland. – Bulletin of the Geological Society of Finland, 83, 95–113.

Kalman, J. 1997. Skeletal Report. Manuscript in AI.

Kalman, J. sine anno. Jõelähtme Skeletal Report. Manuscript in AI.

Kraut, A. 1985. Die Steinkistengräber von Jõelähtme. – TATÜ, 34: 4, 348–350.

Laneman, M. & Lang, V. 2013a. Jõelähtme kivikirstkalmete kaevamisel saadud keraamika (AI 5306). Manuscript in the archives of TÜ AKT.

Laneman, M. & Lang, V. 2013b. New radiocarbon dates for two stone-cist graves at Muuksi, northern Estonia. – EJA, 17: 2, 89–122.

Lang, V. 1995. A Pre-Roman tarand-grave and late medieval fossil fields of Ilmandu, NW Estonia. – TATÜ, 44: 4, 429–436.

Lang, V. 1996. Muistne Rävala. Muistised, kronoloogia ja maaviljelusliku asustuse kujunemine Loode-Eestis, eriti Pirita jõe alamjooksu piirkonnas. (MT, 4.) Tallinn.

Lang, V. 2007. The Bronze and Early Iron Ages in Estonia. (Estonian Archaeology, 3.) Tartu University Press.

Lang, V. 2011. Mõningaid sõlmküsimusi pronksiaja ja vanema rauaaja uurimises. – Eesti Vabariigi teaduspreemiad 2011. Eds R. Villems, H.-L. Help, S. Jakobson, Ü. Rebo & G. Varlamova. Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia, Tallinn, 157–179.

Lang, V. 2015. Formation of Proto-Finnic – an archaeological scenario from the Bronze Age / Early Iron Age. – Congressus Duodecimus Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum, Oulu 2015. Plenary Papers. Eds H. Mantila, K. Leinonen, S. Brunni, S. Palviainen & J. Sivonen. University of Oulu, 63–84.

Laul, S. 1985. Die Entwicklungsetappen und Chronologie der Steingräber in Estland. – Die Verbindungen zwischen Skandinavien und Ostbaltikum aufgrund der archäologischen Quellen­materialen. Eds A. Loit & J. Selirand. (Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Studia Baltica Stockholmiensia, 1.) Centre for Baltic Studies at the University of Stockholm, 67–82.

Lietuvių etnogenezė. Eds R. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė et al. Mokslas, Vilnius, 1987.

Lõugas, V. 1972. Lääne-Eesti rahvastiku kultuurist rooma rauaajal. – TATÜ, 21: 2, 163–175.

Lõugas, V. 1977. Ausgrabungsergebnisse eines Steingräberfeldes von Kurevere. – TATÜ, 26: 1, 48–52.

Luik, H. 2013. Late Bronze Age bone crafting in the eastern Baltic: standardization of artefact types and individual ingenuity. – EJA, 17: 1, 24–37.

Mägi, M. 2005. Mortuary houses in Iron Age Estonia. – EJA, 9: 2, 93–131.

Malve, M. & Laneman, M. 2015. Jõelähtme 34. kalme luustikud. Manuscript in the archives of TÜ AKT.

Mays, S. 2002. The Archaeology of Human Bones. Routledge, New York.

Meinander, C. F. 1954. Die Bronzezeit in Finnland. (SMYA, 54.)

Michelbertas, M. 1986. Senasis geležies amžius Lietuvoje, I–IV amžius. Mokslas, Vilnius.

Montgomery, J., Evans, J. A. & Cooper, R. E. 2007. Resolving archaeological populations with Sr-isotope mixing models. – Applied Geochemistry, 22: 7, 1502–1514.

Moora, H. 1932. Die Vorzeit Estlands. Akadeemiline Kooperatiiv, Tartu.

Moora, T. 1977. = Моора Т. Раскопки каменного могильника у дер. Уури в Северной Эстонии. – TATÜ, 26: 1, 52–55.

Nerman, B. 1933. Die Verbindungen zwischen Skandinavien und dem Ostbaltikum in der Bronzezeit und der ältesten Eisenzeit. – Acta Archaeologica, IV, 237–252.

Olsen, J., Heinemeier, J., Lübke, H., Lüth, F. & Erberger, T. 2010. Dietary habits and freshwater reservoir effects in bones from a Neolithic NE German cemetery. – Radiocarbon, 52: 2, 635–644.

Patrushev, V. 2000. The Early History of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of European Russia. (Studia Archaeologica Fenno-Ugrica, 1.) Societas Historiae Fenno-Ugricae, Oulu.

Price, T. D., Grupe, G. & Schröter, P. 1994. Reconstruction of migration patterns in the Bell Beaker period by stable strontium isotope analysis. – Applied Geochemistry, 9: 4, 413–417.

Price, T. D., Manzanilla, L. & Middleton, W. D. 2000. Immigration and the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Mexico: a study using strontium isotope ratios in human bone and teeth. – Journal of Archaeological Science, 27: 10, 903–913.

Price, T. D., Burton, J. H. & Bentley, R. A. 2002. The characterization of biologically available strontium isotope ratios for the study of prehistoric migration. – Archaeometry, 44: 1, 117–135.

Price, T. D., Frei, K. M., Dobat, A. S., Lynnerup, N. & Bennike, P. 2011. Who was in Harold Bluetooth’s army? Strontium isotope investigation of the cemetery at the Viking Age fortress at Trelleborg, Denmark. – Antiquity, 85: 328, 476–489.

Price, T. D., Frei, K. M., Tiesler, V. & Gestsdottir, H. 2012. Isotopes and mobility: case studies with large samples. – Population Dynamics in Prehistory and Early History: New Approaches Using Stable Isotopes and Genetics. Eds E. Kaiser, J. Burger & S. Wolfram. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 311–321.

Price, T. D., Naum, M., Bennike, P., Lynnerup, N., Frei, K. M., Wagnkilde, H., Pind, T. & Nielsen, F. O. 2013. Isotopic investigation of human provenience at the eleventh century cemetery of Ndr. Grødbygård, Bornholm, Denmark. – Danish Journal of Archaeology, 1: 2, 93–112.

Price, T. D., Peets, J., Allmäe, R., Maldre, L. & Oras, E. forthcoming. Isotopic proveniencing of the Salme ship burials in pre-Viking Age Estonia. – Antiquity (accepted).

Reimer, P. J., Bard, E., Bayliss, A., Beck, J. W., Blackwell, P. G., Bronk Ramsey, C., Buck, C. E., Cheng, H., Edwards, R. L., Friedrich, M., Grootes, P. M., Guilderson, T. P., Hafidason, H., Hajdas, I., Hatté, C., Heaton, T. J., Hoffmann, D. L., Hogg, A. G., Hughen, K. A., Kaiser, K. F., Kromer, B., Manning, S. W., Niu, M., Reimer, R. W., Richards, D. A., Scott, E. M., Southon, J. R., Staff, R. A., Turney, C. S. M. & van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. – Radiocarbon, 55: 4, 1869–1887.

Richards, M. 2003. The Neolithic transition in Europe: archaeological models and genetic evidence. – Documenta Praehistorica, XXX, 159–167.

Richards, M., Macaulay, V., Hickey, E., Vega, E., Sykes, B., Guida, V., Rengo, C., Sellitto, D., Cruciani, F., Kivisild, T., Villems, R., Thomas, M., Rychkov, S., Rychkov, O., Rychkov, Y., Gölge, M., Dimitrov, D., Hill, E., Bradley, D., Romano, V., Calì, F., Vona, G., Demaine, A., Papiha, S., Triantaphyllidis, C., Stefanescu, G., Hatina, J., Belledi, M., Di Rienzo, A., Novelletto, A., Oppenheim, A., Nørby, S., Al-Zaheri, N., Santachiara-Benerecetti, S., Scozzari, R., Torroni, A. & Bandelt, H.-J. 2000. Tracing European founder lineages in the Near Eastern mtDNA pool. – The American Journal of Human Genetics, 67: 5, 1251–1276.

Schmiedehelm, M. & Laul, S. 1970. Asustusest ja etnilistest oludest Kagu-Eestis I aastatuhandel. – Studia archaeologica in memoriam Harri Moora. Eds M. Schmiedehelm, L. Jaanits & J. Selirand. Valgus, Tallinn, 154–165.

Spreckelsen, A. 1927. Das Gräberfeld Laakt (Lagedi), Kirchspiel St. Jürgens, Harrien, Estland. (ÕES Toimetised, XXIV.) Dorpat.

Tvauri, A. 2003. Balti arheoloogia maailmaajaloo pöörises ehk gooti teooria saatus. – EAA, 7: 1, 38–71.

Tvauri, A. 2007. Migrants or natives? The research history of long barrows in Russia and Estonia in the 5th–10th centuries. – Slavica Helsingiensia. Special Issue: Topics on the Ethnic, Linguistic and Cultural Making of the Russian North. Ed. J. Nuorluoto. (Slavica Helsingiensia, 32.) Department of Modern Lan­guages at Helsinki University, 247–285.

Varul, L. in prep. Jõelähtme kalmevälja osteoloogiline aruanne.

Vassar, A. 1943. Nurmsi kivikalme Eestis ja tarandkalmete areng. Tartu. Manuscript in the Tartu University Library.

Vedru, G. 1997. New settlement sites in the surroundings of Lake Kahala and revision excavations of stone-cist grave. – AVE, 1996 (Stilus, 7), 62–67.

Vedru, G. 1998. New archaeological data of the prehistory of Lake Kahala area. – AVE, 1997, 62–66.

Veizer, J. 1989. Strontium isotopes in seawater through time. – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 17, 141–167.


Back to Issue