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 elements, can be seen from the lake. Ancient humans possibly considered the shape of the rock to be a god or its image, and the place is thought to have been some sort of place of worship.
Astuvansalmi rock paintings can be dated based on Lake Saimaa’s history. At its highest, the lake’s surface level was around 10-10.5 meters above the current water level. Before the Vuoksi River emptying Lake Saimaa formed, only the paintings on the upmost part of the rock could have been above water. After a thousand years, the surface level had fallen sufficiently to reveal the rock terrace in front of the paintings. The pictures 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 falu red, 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.
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 human figures with horns on their heads. Exploratory divings by the paintings 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!
The rock paintings are free to look at and admire for everyone, and we hope it stays that way also in the future. Therefore it is forbidden to touch the paintings or mark the rock in any way. The paintings are protected by the Antiquities Act.
Check out the cruises to Astuvansalmi and other cruises in the region.