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The Origin of Finland – Traces of Ice Age in Finnish Nature
About twelve thousand years ago, Finland (the area inhabited by Finns, Karelians
and Lapps, between Norway and Lake Onega) was almost totally buried under a
continental ice sheet, just as Greenland is today. Gradually, the ice sheet melted,
(early global warming) and its southern margin retreated farther and farther north.
As the ice load grew thinner and vanished, the earth's crust began to rise--a process
that has continued to this day, most markedly along the Gulf of Bothnia.
During that process, the Finnish peninsula slowly rose out of the sea, first forming
solitary islands, then chains of islands, and, finally, a clearly defined extension of
the continent.
The retreating glacier striated the bedrock, leaving behind it vivid evidence of the
ancient geologic process; and, during the melting stage, clay accumulated in annual
layers, and pollen grains were preserved in peat, thus bearing further witness to the
vicissitudes of Nature.
Through the study of such phenomena, geologists have been able to deduce the
origins of Finland.
During extremely cold periods between
9 000 and 8 000 B.C., the continental ice sheet halted in its retreat three times and
remained stationary for centuries. This led to the formation of two chains of eskers
out of gravel and sand that were transported by streams of melting ice. These two
separate ridges, known as the Salpausselkä¤ ranges, run east and west across the
entire breadth of Finland.
During the final stages of the Ice Age, the body of water that eventually evolved into
the Baltic Sea was a lake. From this vast stretch of water, a huge labyrinthine lake
separated inside the land mass that was to become the Finnish peninsula and
formed the tens of thousands of lakes of present-day Finland, as the earth's crust
rose. However, the ground did not rise at an even rate everywhere, and, at times, the
level of the sea rose, also forcing rivers into new discharge channels and
submerging extensive areas of land again. It was during these upheavals of Nature
that a number of the most ancient inhabited localities in the country vanished.
However, as work continues, new finds shed a different light on prehistory of
While the continental ice sheet and great bodies of water still covered most of
Finland, a tundra, overgrown with dwarf birch, bordered the glacial margin, both in
the north and in the south. There, wild reindeer, Arctic fur-bearing animals, and--in
the coastal waters -- fish, offered primitive hunters and fishermen a chance to eke
out a livelihood. From those coastal regions of the Arctic Ocean, north of the
present national boundary of Finland, have come the most ancient relics of human
culture ever discovered by Finnish archaeologists. These date back to
approximately 8 000 B.C.
The Baltic shoreline moved south over millennia: beginning when the Baltic was a
giant freshwater lake fed by ice-melt. Both terrestrial and aquatic game were
abundant. At this time, several ringed seal subspecies became land-locked in the
inland waters