A new discovery has been made in endangered Finnish wetlands. A snake staff has been uncovered in the archaeological site Järvensuo 1, which was a chance discovery made in the 1950s. While doing more digging in the area, they’ve uncovered a snake sculpture of what they think was a shaman’s staff. The staff dates to 4,400 years ago and measures 21 inches. They believe that it may have been a staff used in magical rituals by a shaman from the Stone Age.
The site where the staff was found would have been occupied from 4,000 B.C.E. to 2,000 B.C.E.. Satu Koivisto, the lead researcher on the project and an archaeologist at the University of Turku, has found many well preserved artifacts made of wood and other materials. In an email to ARTnews, Koivisto called the staff an “astonishingly well-preserved piece of zoomorphic art from the Neolithic [era that] is hitherto unique in character and style.”
The staff would have been used in religious or spiritual ceremony. They’ve uncovered numerous fishing artifacts from the site so they believe that this staff may have been used as part of a shoreline ceremony. Kovisto says it was either lost or discarded intentionally. The lore of the area also says that Shamans were believed to be able to transform into snakes. The staff would have symbolized the connection between the Shaman and the spiritual realm.
Because of the environmental conditions of the area the wood that the staff was made of was well preserved. Because it’s a wetland Järvensuo has low oxygen and high humidity, allowing water-logged items to survive. You can view more images of the staff from to the Cambridge Journal Entry here.