URKO – integrative research on human history in the Uralic language speaker area

An example map of the interdisciplinary database of the Uralic linguistic area. Uralic language speaker area is illustrated along with the current vegetation zonation, spread of Textile ware and sites of published aDNA samples.

Speaker area information: see https://www.bedlan.net/; Vegetation zonation: Binney et al. (2017); aDNA sites: http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/ancient-human-dna_41837); Textile ware sites: Lavento (2001)



URKO (Uralilainen kolmio, Uralic triangulation) studies human linguistic, genetic and cultural diversity in the Uralic language speaker area. We build online interfaces to three open access databases: i) typological data of Uralic languages, ii) spatial data on Uralic language distribution areas, and iii) Iron Age, Bronze Age and Stone Age archaeological artefacts in Finland. To stimulate use of this data, we develop computational approaches to conduct interdisciplinary studies of human (pre)history, and teaching modules introducing data-driven paradigm to a new generation of scholars.

The breakthrough potentials of the consortium are dual: The databases and methodological innovations with special emphasis on geospatial data and methodology will advance the field of digital humanities as a whole. Breakthroughs in the subject field, the interdisciplinary study of human history, will stem from the development of overarching computational statistical approaches for integrating linguistic, cultural and genetic data. URKO focuses on the Uralic speaker area, which is understudied compared to e.g. Indo-European speaker areas. High quality databases and interfaces, and cutting edge analyses based on them, will help integrate North-East Europe, and especially the Baltic Sea region, into global perspectives on human history.

URKO belongs to one of the six Thematic Collaborations in Research of the University of Turku, ‘Cultural memory and social change’ and build an elementary part of newly founded Interdisciplinary Research Center of Cultural and Biological Diversity, an UTU research center. This ambitious project is feasible due to our already established network of interdisciplinary researchers.

Contact details (firstname.surname@utu.fi)
Project leader: Prof Päivi Onkamo, Dept of Biology https://sites.utu.fi/paleogenetics/en/

PI: Prof Sirkka Saarinen, Dept. of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages
PI: Adjunct prof Harri Tolvanen, Department of Geography and Geology
Coordinator: Dr Outi Vesakoski, Dept. of Biology/Finno-Ugric Languages, https://www.bedlan.net