Beyond Consumption: Functionality, Artifact Biography, and Early Modernity in a European Periphery

  • Vesa-Pekka Herva
  • Risto Nurmi


This paper considers the functionality and biographies of artifacts in the context of historical archaeology. It is argued that in order to understand how human life in the recent past unfolded in relation with material culture, artifacts must be recognized to perform various unobvious functions and also be conceived as processes rather than bounded physical objects. The paper begins with a theoretical discussion and then focuses on the post-acquisition life of artifacts and human-artifact relations in the seventeenth-century town of Tornio, northern Finland.


Artifact biography Early modernity Functionality Tornio 



Vesa-Pekka Herva is an Academy of Finland post-doctoral fellow. Research for this paper has been conducted within the project “Material Roots of Modernization in Northern Finland c. AD 1500–1800: An Archaeological Study of Urbanization and Consumption”, funded by the Scientific Council of the University of Oulu (2004–2006). We wish to thank Janne Ikäheimo, James Symonds and Timo Ylimaunu for helping in various ways with this paper. We are also indebted to Gavin Lucas, Anna-Kaisa Puputti and Eveliina Salo for making available to us their unpublished research and papers awaiting publication.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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