Category Archives: FINLAND

Possible shaman’s snake stick from 4,400 years ago discovered in a Finnish lake

Possible shaman’s snake stick from 4,400 years ago discovered in a Finnish lake

Archaeologists in Finland have uncovered an intricately carved wooden staff that may have been used by Stone Age shamans for rituals. More than half a metre long, the perfectly preserved life-sized wooden stick is a carving of a snake, shaped as if it is slithering away. 

It was found at Järvensuo 1, a wetland site in Finland’s southwest that was occupied between 4000 BC and 2000 BC, and is ‘unlike any other wooden artefact found in Northern Europe’ during this period.

The archaeologists say the object is 4,400-years-old, meaning it dates back to the Neolithic period – the final division of the Stone Age.   

Incredibly preserved detail of the carved snake’s head. The unbelievably well-preserved wooden stick was intricately carved in the shape of a snake slithering away

‘This delicately carved natural-sized snake figurine is a magnificent, thought-provoking glimpse from far back in time,’ said study author Dr Satu Koivisto at the University of Turku. 

‘I have seen many extraordinary things in my work as a wetland archaeologist, but the discovery of this figurine made me utterly speechless and gave me the shivers.’

Contemporary rock art shows snake-shaped objects being held by human-like figures, which is why the experts think the carving was a Stone Age shaman’s staff for rituals.  

Side view (a) and top view (b) of the stick, suspected to be a staff. The archaeologists say the object is 4,400-years-old, meaning it dates back to the Neolithic period

‘There seems to be a certain connection between snakes and people,’ said co-author Dr Antti Lahelma from the University of Helsinki.

‘This brings to mind northern shamanism of the historical period, where snakes had a special role as spirit-helper animals of the shaman. 

‘Even though the time gap is immense, the possibility of some kind of continuity is tantalising – do we have a Stone Age shaman’s staff?’

Järvensuo 1 was discovered by accident by ditch diggers during the 1950s but had not been fully excavated. As such, archaeologists have been working to explore the site since 2019. 

The prehistoric lakeshore has wetland conditions conducive to preserving wooden items. Previous excavation work at the site unearthed a wooden scoop with a handle like a bear’s head. 

Järvensuo 1, a wetland site, is located in south-west Finland at the foot of a moraine hill rising in the middle of a large peatland plateau. Archaeological interest is with the southern shore of the drained Rautajärvi Lake. a) Location map; b) study area at Järvensuo; c) aerial photograph of the site
The artifact was found at Järvensuo, a site located beside a lake in southwest Finland. A large number of artifacts associated with fishing were also found at the site.

Several other wooden artefacts have been found by the new investigations, including wooden utensils, structural remains and pieces of fishing equipment. 

According to archaeologists, this indicates Järvensuo 1 was the site of not just bizarre rituals involving the snake figurine, but practical activities as well-meaning it offers a snapshot of all aspects of ancient life. 

‘Well-preserved finds from wetlands help our understanding of ancient peoples and the landscape where they performed both mundane and sacred activities,’ said Dr Koivisto. 

Sadly, Järvensuo 1 and the historical treasures within are under threat from drainage and other changes to the local environment, exacerbated by climate change.

‘The signs of destruction caused by extensive drainage are already clearly evident at the site and its organic treasures are no longer safe,’ said Dr Koivisto.

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements

“Ornaments composed of elk teeth suspended from or sown onto clothing emit a loud rattling noise when moving,” says auditory archaeologist and Academy of Finland Research Fellow Riitta Rainio from the University of Helsinki.

“Wearing such rattlers while dancing makes it easier to immerse yourself in the soundscape, eventually letting the sound and rhythm take control of your movements. It is as if the dancer is led in the dance by someone.”

Rainio is well versed in the topic, as she danced, for research purposes, for six consecutive hours, wearing elk tooth ornaments produced according to the Stone Age model.

Rainio and artist Juha Valkeapää held a performance to find out what kind of wear marks are formed in the teeth when they bang against each other and move in all directions.

The sound of a tooth rattler can be clear and bright or loud and pounding, depending on the number and quality of the teeth, as well as the intensity of movement.

Prehistoric Teeth Pendants Worn in Ancient Dance 8,000 Years Ago Incite Body Movements
Adult male from grave 76a in Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov drawn as if he were alive during a dance session: 140 elk teeth on the chest, waist, pelvis, and thighs rattle rhythmically and loudly.

Microanalysis demonstrates that tooth wear marks are the result of dancing.

The teeth worn out by dancing were analyzed for any microscopic marks before and after the dancing. These marks were then compared to the findings made in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov graves by Evgeny Girya, an archaeologist specialized in micro-marks at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Girya documented and analyzed the wear marks in the elk teeth found in four graves chosen for the experiment. Comparing the chips, hollows, cuts and smoothened surfaces of the teeth, he observed a clear resemblance between teeth worn out by dancing and the Stone Age teeth.

However, the marks in the Stone Age teeth were deeper and more extensive. According to Girya, the results show that the marks are the result of similar activity.

Archaeological research recently showed how prehistoric pendants incited sounds and body movements in ancient dance about 8,000 years ago.

“As the Stone Age teeth were worn for years or even decades, it’s no surprise that their marks are so distinctive,” Girya says.

Associate Professor of Archaeology Kristiina Mannermaa from the University of Helsinki is excited by the research findings.

“Elk tooth rattlers are fascinating since they transport modern people to a soundscape that is thousands of years old and to its emotional rhythms that guide the body.

You can close your eyes, listen to the sound of the rattlers and drift on the soundwaves to a lakeside campfire in the world of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.”

See Also: MORE ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

A total of 177 graves of women, men and children have been found in the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov burial site, of which more than half contain several elk tooth ornaments, some of them composed of over 300 individual teeth.

A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Finland changes understanding of livelihoods

A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Finland changes the understanding of livelihoods

Researchers determined the age of millennia-old barley grains using radiocarbon dating.

Researchers determined the age of millennia-old barley grains using radiocarbon dating.

Representatives of the Stone Age Pitted Ware Culture was known as hard-core sealers or even Baltic Sea Inuit. based on prior research.

Now, researchers have discovered barley and wheat grains in areas previously inhabited by this culture, leading to the conclusion that the Pitted Ware Culture adopted agriculture on a small scale.

A study carried out in cooperation with parties representing the discipline of archaeology and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki, as well as Swedish operators in the field of archaeology (The Archaeologists, a governmental consultant agency, and Arkeologikonsult, a business), found grains of barley and wheat in Pitted Ware settlements on Finland’s Aland Islands and in the region of modern Stockholm.

The age of the grains was ascertained using radiocarbon dating. Based on the results, the grains originated in the period of the Pitted Ware culture, thus being approximately 4,300-5,300 years old. In addition to the cereal grains, the plant remnants found in the sites included hazelnut shells, apple seeds, tuberous roots of lesser celandine and rose hips.

The study suggests that small-scale farming was adopted by the Pitted Ware Culture by learning the trade from farmers of the Funnel Beaker Culture, the latter having expanded from continental Europe to Scandinavia. Other archaeological artifacts are also evidence of close contact between these two cultures.

“The grains found on Aland are proof that the Pitted Ware Culture introduced cultivation to places where it had not yet been practiced,” says Santeri Vanhanen, a doctoral student of archaeology at the University of Helsinki.

Cereal perhaps used to brew beer?

The 5,000-year-old barley grain found on Aland is the oldest grain of cereal ever found in Finland.

The researchers also found a handful of barley and wheat grains a few hundred years younger, representing either common wheat or club wheat.“We also dated one barley grain found in Raseborg, southern Finland.

This grain and the other earliest grains found in mainland Finland date back some 3,500 years, some 1,500 years behind Aland according to current knowledge,” Vanhanen explains.

In prior studies, it has been extremely difficult to demonstrate that the hunter-gatherer population would have adopted farming during recorded history, let alone in the Stone Age. Research on ancient DNA has in recent years proven that the spread of agriculture in Europe was almost exclusively down to migrants.

“We find it possible that this population, which was primarily specialized in marine hunting, continued to grow plants as the practice provided the community with social significance.”From time to time, an abundance of pig bones is found at Pitted Ware sites, even though pigs were not an important part of their daily nourishment.

For instance, the bones of more than 30 pigs were found in a grave located on the island of Gotland.“Members of the Pitted Ware culture may have held ritual feasts where pigs and cereal products were consumed. It’s not inconceivable that grains might even have been used to brew beer, but the evidence is yet to be found,” Vanhanen continues.

Grain-age determined through radiocarbon dating

The research relies primarily on archaeobotanical methodology, which helps examine plant remains preserved in archaeological sites.

In this study, soil samples were collected from the sites, from which plant remains were extracted using a flotation method. The plant remains are charred; in other words, the grains and seeds have turned into carbon after having come to contact with fire.

Plant remains can be identified by examining them through a microscope and comparing them to modern plant parts. The age of individual grains can be determined with radiocarbon dating, based on the fractionation of the radioactive carbon-14 isotope. This way, the age of a grain aged several millennia can be determined with a precision of a few centuries.