This Cool 4,400-Year-Old Snake Stick From Finland May Have Belonged to a Shaman

A lake in the southwest of Finland discovered a wooden stick that had been carved into the form of a snake, dating back approximately 4,400 years. A shaman may have used the stick for mystical purposes.Satu Koivisto, archaeologist and wetland archaeologist said that he had seen many remarkable things during his work. However, the discovery of the figurine left him speechless and gave him the chills. Koivisto, a postdoctoral researcher at Finland's University of Turku, leads research at Jrvensuo where the object was discovered.The figure is 21 inches long (53 cms) and approximately an inch thick (2.5 cm). It was "carved out of a single piece of timber," Koivisto and Antti Lahelma (an archaeologist at University of Helsinki) wrote in a paper published in Antiquity, June 29.Researchers wrote that the figurine was very naturalistic and resembles either a Natrix natrix grass snake or Vipera berus European adder in the act of swimming away or slithering.Similar: 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on EarthThe artifact could depict a viper, according to a researcher who was not part of the study. Sonja Hukantaival (postdoctoral researcher in Nordic Folkloristics, bo Akademi University, Finland) told Live Science via email that she believes the artifact depicts a viper.This is interesting because the viper plays an important role in later folk religions and magic.The location of the snake figurine and the excavated artifact were photographed from above by S. Koivisto.Researchers speculate that the carving was either a decorative figurine or a staff for a shaman.Researchers wrote that "As a preliminary hypothesis it seems reasonable, but it seems to be appropriate, however, for the artifact to be placed in the religious sphere." They stated that snakes are symbolically linked to pre-Christian beliefs in historical records. Also, shamans were believed capable of transforming into snakes.Smi are found in Russia and northern Scandinavia, while Finno Ugric languages can be heard in eastern Europe and Scandinavia.The artifact is from a time long before Finnish people started keeping written records. Researchers can't prove that the beliefs were shared by people around 4,400 years ago. Koivisto explained to Live Science.A large number of fishing artifacts were also discovered at the Jrvensuo site by the team, suggesting that ancient fishermen used the area.Fascinating findLive Science was told by experts not associated with the research that they found the findings fascinating."This remarkable find shows that the Neolithic people had a great concern about the subterranean environment that we, today are mostly unaware of," Vesa-Pekka Sheva, head of archaeology at the University of Oulu, Finland.Live Science spoke to a few scholars who suggested that the artifact might be an offering. Kristiina Mannermaa from the University of Helsinki, said that the fact that the artifact was found in a wetland near a lake "supports" the idea that the artifact was an offer and not lost accidentally.Mannermaa pointed out that wooden artifacts are not always preserved in Finland's acidic soil. Mannermaa said, "This is a remarkable indicator for Finnish archaeologists, that such wetland locations must be investigated before being destroyed by drainage and peat extract [a process where peat is removed from the soil and sold as fertilizer]."Francis Joy, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Lapland, said that the discovery could be crucial for modern-day Smi people.Joy explained to Live Science that if the artifact was "linked with the ancient Smi ancestors it would bring into focus questions concerning repatriation as well as give the Smi people validation in relation to their prehistory of southern Finland." The Smi have been discriminated against at times and have fought for their rights for many decades.Joy said that it was important to continue archaeological research to determine if there are any potential offering places near the site where the artifacts were found.The site is still being investigated and the artifact is being analyzed. Researchers are trying to determine the type of wood that the artifact is made.Similar content:17 important milestones in Paleolithic Paleolithic history: Back to the Stone Age30 of the most valuable treasures in the world that are still missing7 strange ancient cultures history forgotLive Science originally published this article. You can read the original article here.