Astuvansalmi rock paintings (Activities, Nature, natural sites and attractions, Retkeilyreitit ja luontopolut, Veneily)

Astuvansalmi in Ristiina parish hosts the largest rock art site in the Nordics

A godly figure

In Astuvansalmi’s rock, a large side profile of a human face, formed by the ice sheet during the ice age, can be seen from the lake. It is assumed that the place was a sacred cult site for our ancestors due to the shape of the rock that resembles the face of a giant.

Astuvansalmi rock paintings were painted on different levels on the rock wall depending on the height of the water level. At its highest, the water level was around 10-10.5 meters above the current level. Before the Vuoksi river burst open towards Lake Laatokka, only the upmost paintings were above water level. A thousand years later, the level had fallen to reveal the rock terrace. The rock paintings at Astuvansalmi therefore date back to approximately 4000-2200 BCE. The painting area is around 16.5 m wide and 5.5 m tall.

Over 80 pictures

Around 80 pictures have been found on Astuvansalmi’s rock. The motifs include human figures, moose, boats, fish, lines, as well as hand and paw prints. In addition, the rock shows a covering layer of red. The most common pictures are a moose, a human figure, or a boat.

The pictures were originally painted with red mullet, a paint made from soil high in residual copper, and therefore the visibility of the paintings differs according to the season and the weather. A picture visible in the autumn might be hidden in the sunlight of the summer. 

Rare findings

The curiosity of Astuvansalmi is the female figure holding a bow, often called Artemis of Astuvansalmi. Depictions of women with weapons in rock art have not been found anywhere else in Finland.

Another point of interest are the three horned human figures. Exploratory divings by the rock of Astuvansalmi have discovered three amber pendants depicting human faces and a pendant with a hole, which has been interpreted to depict a bear. 

You may watch, but not touch!

You are welcome to admire the paintings. To preserve the site untouched also for future generation, it is forbidden to touch the paintings or mark the rock in any way. The paintings are protected by the Antiquities Act.

How to access Astuvansalmi?

Check out the cruises to Astuvansalmi and other cruises in the region.