Located at the confluence of two large rivers, the most important transport routes at the time, Rovaniemi began to adopt the role of the "gateway to
There has probably been continuous settlement in the Rovaniemi area since the Stone Age. Periodic clearances of new land for agriculture and the practice of slash-and-burn cultivation began around 750-530 B.C. Meanwhile, artefacts found in the area suggest that an increasing number of travellers from Karelia in the east, Häme in the south and the Arctic Ocean coast in the north, must have come there 500 A.D. onwards.
One cannot talk about the people of Rovaniemi until the time when the area was first given its name. The oldest surviving instance of the name in writing dates from 7th September 1453 when the bailiff of Ostrobothnia confirmed a transfer of land between the farms of Korkalo and Rovaniemi, although the name must have been in existence much earlier.
The word Rovaniemi has often been considered to be of Lappish origin, as "roavve" in Saami denotes a forested ridge or hill or the site of an old forest fire. In the dialects of southern
Lapland, however, "rova" means a heap of stones, a rock or group of rocks in a stretch of rapids, or even a sauna stove.