The town of Tornio, on the border of present-day Finland and Sweden, was founded in 1621, on the order of the King of Sweden, to replace the old medieval marketplace on the estuary of the Tornio river. It was the northernmost urban site in Europe at the time. The founding and early development of the town was part of the broader trade-political process in the emerging Kingdom of Sweden during the early modern age. The original town was a small, wooden trading-post-like place, settled mostly by peasants from the surrounding countryside. This chapter provides an overview of Tornio’s urban development in its first century of existence, and discusses the development of the built environment based on the results of archaeological studies conducted since the 1960s. Lastly, the chapter addresses the early urbanization process of the inhabitants by considering their relationships with artefacts during the early phases of the town.
The first examples of urbanization in Celtic Europe were the princely residences of the early Iron Age, but it was not until the late third century BC that urban centres began to flourish across Europe. The first were open settlements, followed by fortified oppida. Characterized by very large surface areas (up to hundreds of hectares) and defended by ramparts with strong symbolic and ostentatious connotations, oppida are widely considered the first cities north of the Alps. Craft and commercial activities were prominent, but they were also important political and religious centres, displaying a coherent internal organization, with functional zoning and public spaces. Oppida appeared in the late second century BC, disappearing in the mid-first century BC in the east, but surviving until the Augustan period in Gaul. The structuring of Gaulish civitas territories implies that some oppida were true capitals.