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The Finnish people of the late Iron Age (9th to 12th centuries AD) buried their dead using different types of funerary ritual and symbolic concepts. Both cremation and inhumation rites, found in either mounds or flat field cemeteries, were integral aspects of late prehistoric Finnish culture. Comparison of these sites with ethnohistoric data revealing beliefs in the afterlife, funerary practice, and social organization, on the one hand, with the preserved oral tradition of pre-Christian myths and heroic tales collected by folklorists, on the other, suggests a new interpretation of the cemeteries. This interpretation reveals the prehistoric Finns to have been a shamanistic society deeply immersed in a culture of ancestor worship and a belief in spirit beings. The book attempts to explain the variation in mortuary ritual and to define more specifically the content of the belief system behind the funerary rites. Economic and sociopolitical factors play a role in delineating the development of the pagan Finnish worldview.
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