A comprehensive spatial model for historical travel effort - a case study in Finland



Contributing to multidisciplinary studies of human population history, this paper presents an analysis chain to comprehensively model the historical travel environment in Finland, based on a study of spatial patterns of overall accessibility within the country. We created a spatial historical travel environment model over the whole country using high-quality terrain and landscape spatial data, combined with information from historical sources that characterize the landscape in terms of travel effort given the environmental and human-related factors current up until the late 19th century. Spatial analyses of historical travel effort based on the travel environment model indicate travel speeds for different parts of the country, ranging from 0.6 to 5.3 km/h. This is nearly a tenfold range, potentially highly significant for studies relying on historical travel effort and contacts between population groups in Finland. The results show that the overall travel effort in southern Finland is significantly smaller than in the north: almost all areas in southern Finland have average travel speeds above 3 km/h, whereas the average travel speeds below 2.5 km/h are typical in the north. A more detailed study using random 100 km transects highlights the variability of the least-cost routes in different landscapes and between different source data combinations in each cost surface. The paper identifies great potential in combining the existing spatial data archives with archaeological, linguistic, and genetic data in a GIS analysis, to study the travel effort and its impact on the observed spatial patterns of languages, genetic traits, and archaeological findings.

Research Papers



How to Cite

Rantanen, T., Tolvanen, H., Honkola, T., & Vesakoski, O. (2021). A comprehensive spatial model for historical travel effort - a case study in Finland. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 199(1), 61–88. https://doi.org/10.11143/fennia.98357