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Neolithic "Serpent Staff" found in Finland

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  • Neolithic "Serpent Staff" found in Finland

    Source: Archaeologists discover 4,400-year-old serpent “staff”


    Archaeologists from the University of Turku, in collaboration with the Finnish Heritage Agency, and researchers from the University of Helsinki have uncovered a stone age wooden “staff” shaped like a serpent.

    The discovery was made at the Järvensuo 1 prehistoric site, an ancient wetland environment on the shores of Rautajarvi Lake in the southwest of Finland. Järvensuo 1 was discovered by accident during the 1950’s by ditch diggers, and has been subject to ongoing excavations first commenced in 2019.

    Due to the anaerobic conditions of the soil, previous studies have uncovered several perfectly preserved wooden artefacts, that includes a wooden scoop with a handle shaped like a bear’s head.

    The latest "staff" discovery measures half a metre in length, and is shaped like a naturalistic slithering serpent with a snake’s head, that may have been used by a Stone Age shaman for ritualistic purposes.


    snake2-1536x723.jpg
    Clickenate on imagification to enbiggen




    Archaeologists note that the discovery is unlike any other wooden artefact from Neolithic Northern Europe, although snakes are sometimes depicted in contemporary rock art pictographs from the Pit-Comb Ware Culture (also called the Comb Ceramic Culture) where they are held by human-like figures.

    Dr Antti Lahelma from the University of Helsinki said: "There seems to be a certain connection between snakes and people, this brings to mind northern shamanism of the historical period, where snakes had a special role as spirit-helper animals of the shaman."

    Several wooden artefacts were also uncovered during recent excavations, including wooden utensils, structural remains, and many pieces of fishing equipment.

    Dr Satu Koivisto, principal investigator of the Järvensuo research from the University of Turku, and lead author of this study said: "Well-preserved finds from wetlands help our understanding of ancient peoples and the landscape where they performed both mundane and sacred activities."

    The researchers stress that Järvensuo 1 is under threat, as drainage works and environmental changes exacerbated by climate change is placing the site and underlining archaeology at risk. "The signs of destruction caused by extensive drainage are already clearly evident at the site, and its organic treasures are no longer safe." added Dr Koivisto


    Source

    © Copyright Original Source



    The entire very short paper, Between earth and water: a wooden snake figurine from the Neolithic site of Järvensuo 1 can be read by clicking the hyperlink, although the abstract is available below:

    Abstract

    Figurines made of wood, bone, amber, clay and lithics are occasionally discovered in prehistoric contexts in Fennoscandia, but the discovery, in 2020, of a unique wooden snake figurine during the excavations of a Neolithic wetland site in Finland broadens our understanding of the worldview of northern peoples 4400 years ago.


    The 21" (53.3cm) long staff was unearthed roughly 75mi (120km) northwest of Helsinki, at a prehistoric wetland site. Personally, I've always been irked at the tendency to pigeonhole every relic that we don't know the purpose of as being "for ritualistic purposes." But that's a complaint for another time.

    210624-crop-finland-snake-carving-jm-1249-cdbcd9.jpg
    Clickenate on imagification to enbiggen





    I'm fascinated by artifacts that survive intact far longer than they ever should. Often, as is the case here, an anaerobic setting played a key role. The lack of oxygen prevents many types of fungi and bacteria from forming that normally assist in the wood's decomposition.

    For instance, about five years ago, a 3000 year old bronze sword was found in Denmark that was in such immaculate condition that the blade was still sharp!



    Here's the account of another bronze sword, 3300 years old, unearthed in the Czech Republic two years ago, although it isn't in as great a shape as the Danish sword.

    And around the time that the Danish sword was dug up an underwater survey of the Black Sea came across numerous ship wrecks dating from Byzantine to Renaissance times. What astounded the researchers was how intact the rope rigging on these ships were considering how such ropes usually completely disintegrate in about a century. Once again the solution appears to lie in the anoxic (low oxygen content) state of the water.

    And low oxygen environments not only preserve artifacts from long gone ages, it helps to preserve various organisms, from plants to animals, from decaying (and in the latter case, also prevents scavenging in that anything entering that environment quickly perishes as well).

    For instance, a fish can wander into anoxic waters (whether in a lake or at sea) and suffocate because the water lacks oxygen and sink to the bottom. Since there is nearly no oxygen the remains won't be disturbed by either scavengers or bacteria and thus stay intact for quite a long time. The fact that such waters tend to be dead calm also means that the body won't be disturbed by currents and the like.

    In fact, a partially buried whale skeleton slowly being covered by deposition has been studied off the coast of California in the Santa Catalina Basin at 1240 meters (4068') underwater demonstrates just how such fossilization can occur.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

  • #2
    Have they tried throwing it down and seeing if it turns into a snake?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sparko View Post
      Have they tried throwing it down and seeing if it turns into a snake?
      The first thing I thought of when I saw the story.

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        Now if they found a neolithic rolling pin, we would definitely know who it belonged to.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Sparko View Post
          Now if they found a neolithic rolling pin, we would definitely know who it belonged to.
          I heard that a certain someone broke her first PIN™ um, PINning Behemoth once for trampling through her flower garden.

          I'm always still in trouble again

          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

          Comment

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