History of Myllymäki in Untamala

Connections across the sea – Swedish-style grave mounds
Iron Age dwelling sites
Ancient cultivation terraces and stones with cup markings
Strange ‘bauta' stones
Medieval Untamala
Stories about Untamala
Divided in two

Connections Across the Sea – Swedish-style Grave Mounds

The approximately forty shallow grave mounds found in Untamala are unique, since similar ones can only be found in Kansankoulunmäki in Laitila in Finland. The eastern Swedish burial custom bears witness to connections across the Gulf of Bothnia. When these grave mounds were created, the sea still reached all the way to the south-western side of Untamala village.  

Most burials date back to the early Roman Age (0–200 AD), but the burial ground was used as late as the Migration Period (400–600 AD). Some of the deceased in the mounds were cremated, but others were not. In the 1930s, 30–40 mounds remained, but most had been destroyed by the 1960s due to gravel extraction and construction. A dozen mounds still remain.

Of the 15 grave mounds examined in the barrow cemeteries in the early 1900s, 11 were situated in Myllymäki and four in Vuorenharjunmäki. The mounds were less than one metre high and around 5 metres in diameter, containing soil but clearly structured. In some mounds, the deceased were placed in a pit under a pile of stones, but in some they were buried in the ground. Objects found in the graves include a couple of bronze bracelets, a fibula brooch, iron knives and ceramics.

A grave mound. Photo: Laura Lehtonen

Iron Age Dwelling Sites

Three Iron Age dwelling sites have been found in Untamala: the first by the Myllymäki-Vuorenpää burial site in the field to the south-west of the village road, the second behind the cowhouse that formed the Archaeological Centre and the third some 200 metres south-west of the church. Iron Age dwellings were probably also situated in the densely built area along the village road.

Ancient Cultivation Terraces and Stones With Cup Markings

Grassy terraced fields can be seen on the north-eastern slope of the Myllymäki-Vuorenpäänharju hill. The form and location of the terraces and the more than 50 cm layer of topsoil on them indicate that they must have been used as early as the Iron Age. On the basis of sediment samples taken from the nearby mires, it has been concluded that the site was cultivated before the Common Era. Rye cultivation spread to Untamala around the 700s and 800s.

As many as six stones with small cup markings, used for sacrificial purposes, have been identified in the Untamala area. Some of the grain harvest or drops of the first milk from a cow were sacrificed on these stones in order to ensure a secure livelihood. Worship of the dead is also linked to the stones close to cemeteries. Water that accumulated in the cups on the stone was probably used for healing purposes.

Stone with cup markings. Photo: Laura Lehtonen

Strange ‘Bauta' Stones

To the south of the Untamala village road, the south-western side of the Myllymäki-Vuorenmäenharja hill is lined with a number of stones erected in an almost regular line on the ground along the old road. These are not grave memorials. Known as ‘bauta' stones, such stones are common in Sweden but are rarely found in Finland.

Medieval Untamala

In the Middle Ages, the sea had already retreated from the vicinity of what is now the centre of the Untamala village, but the village continued to prosper as it had done since the Iron Age. In the Middle Aes, Untamala was the centre of Laitila – so much so that in the 1400s the entire parish was often called Untamala. As late as the mid-1500s, the 26 houses in the settlement formed the largest village in Southwestern Finland. In the late 1400s, a stone church was built in Laitila village and the parish centre gradually shifted towards the surroundings of the new church.


Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the old cemetery hill was put to new use and windmills were built on the hill. The hill was later named after them, as the Finnish word Myllymäki means mill hill. As early as 1585, Untamala had seven windmills – only the village of Björkö in Houtskar had more. Three windmills still remained in Myllymäki in the 1920s and archaeologists who studied the area in the early 1900s, wrote that the whoosh and clang of the mill blades were a characteristic sound of Untamala. The foundations at the top of the three mills remain visible on the top of the esker to the present day.

Mills were needed for the grinding of grain harvested from the surrounding fields. To the west of the headland, Mother Nature provided fertile fields as the sea gradually receded. To the east of the headland, people dried up the large Lake Valkojärvi in several stages between 1890 and 1950. Today, this ancient headland is surrounded by roads and wide expanses of fields.  

Stories About Untamala

According to local tradition, Untamala is the oldest village in Laitila and, according to legend, the series of eskers from Untamala to Laitila church were built by ancient giants, the Sons of Kaleva. The villagers had agreed with the giants that the latter would build a bridge from Untamala to Laitila. The giants worked so rapidly that the villagers began to regret the high reward that they had promised and started to haggle. This made the giants angry and they stopped working. Thus, the bridge of eskers was never completed.

One of the tombstones in Untamala churchyard is over two metres high. It is known as the scythe hone of one of the sons of Kaleva. According to ancient folklore, one of the sons of Kaleva, an ancient giant, used it to sharpen his scythe. The tale tells us that the son of Kaleva was sharpening his scythe in a meadow in Eura and sent his wife to fetch some water. When she did not return in time, he became angry and threw the stone after her. It flew all the way to the Untamala church and remained standing on the ground.

Divided in Two

The Government purchased land in Myllymäen-Vuorenpäänharju in 1980, 1996 and 2011. The Myllymäen-Vuorenpäänharju relics were transferred to Metsähallitus on 1 January 2014. The former Archaeological Centre in the northern part of the site, and its environs, were transferred to Senate Properties at the same time.