History

4,400 Years Old Possible Shaman’s Snake Stick Found In A Finnish Lake

In southwest Finland, a wooden stick that takes the shape of a snake was found. It dates back to a whopping 4,400 years. The stick is said to be used by a shaman for mystical purposes.

In a statement, Archeologist Satu Koivisto stated that out of everything he’d seen during his work as a wetland archeologist, this discovery made him utterly speechless. The study at Järvensuo, where the Snake Stick artifact was found, is lead by Koivisto. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku in Finland.

Shaman Snake Stick
Image credit: Satu Koivisto, courtesy Antiquity Publications Ltd

The length and the thickness of this mysterious figure are 53cm and 2.5cm respectively. It has been carved out of a single piece of wood. Antti Lahelma who’s an archaeologist at the University of Helsinki is the co-author of the research. They mentioned in a journal titled Antiquity that a grass snake (Natrix natrix) or a European adder (Vipera berus) that’s slithering away is resembled by this extremely naturalistic figurine.

Sonja Hukantaival, a postdoctoral researcher in Nordic Folkloristics at Åbo Akademi University in Finland that didn’t take part in the study suggested that the artifact resembles a viper. The reason for this suggestion is the shape of its head, the distinguishable tail, and the short body. This is also interesting as the viper plays a much more noteworthy role in historical folk religion and magic. However, the researchers suggest that the snake stick is either a decorative figurine or staff used by a shaman.

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As stated in historical records that discuss pre-Christian beliefs, snakes are considered symbolic in both Finno-Ugric and Sámi cosmology. Also, there’s a belief that shamans can transform into snakes. The Sámi reside in northern Scandinavia and Russia. Also, in both Scandinavia and eastern Europe, Finno-Urgic languages are spoken. Therefore, above suggestions only seem reasonable as preliminary hypotheses, as it dates back to long before Finnish people started to keep written records. Also, researchers can’t be certain about the beliefs of people during that time.

Shaman Snake Stick
Image credit: Satu Koivisto, courtesy Antiquity Publications Ltd

In addition to this mysterious snake stick, a large number of fishing artifacts were also discovered from the same area. This suggests that the Järvensuo was popular among fishermen.

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