The Astuvansalmi rock paintings, Ristiina

#5 of 21 in Historic Sites in Southern Savonia
Historic Site · Landmark
The Astuvansalmi rock paintings are located in Ristiina, Mikkeli, Southern Savonia, Finland at the shores of the lake Yövesi, which is a part of the large lake Saimaa. The paintings are 7.7 to 11.8 metres above the water-level of lake Saimaa. The lake level was much higher at the time the rock paintings were made. There are about 70 paintings in the area.
The rock paintings were officially found by the Finnish archaeologist Pekka Sarvas in 1968, though locals knew of them before that.
The rock where the paintings are located looks like a human head, the form especially visible during wintertime when viewed from the ice of the lake. The rock has presumably been some kind of a cult or ceremony site. The images of elk in Finnish rock paintings may be related to ‘animal ceremonialism’, whereupon the continuity of the hunted species is guaranteed by a ritual in which the animal is sent back to its ‘owner’.
The oldest paintings were made about 3000–2500 BC. They are located at the highest level (about 11 metres). The water level changed rapidly (about 2.5 metres) with the landslide of Vuoksi. Later on the level slowly went down 8 metres to its present level. All the later paintings were made from boats during the different historical water-levels.
Other archeological artefacts have been found on the site, at the bottom of the lake, among them small amber statuettes of old gods (Ukko and Akka). Some animal jewellery was also found, one showing a bear head. The jewellery and statuettes refer to some religious ceremonies held on the site.
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  • For travelers sans auto. There is a 'Hop-on-Hop-off’ bus/boat that is active in the summer months. Search for 'hop-on-hop-off-ristiina' and check the schedule. There are daily buses between Mikkeli....  more »
  • We were with a group in the Anttolanhovi Resort and decided to finalize the stay with a trip by boat to the see rock paintings. The boat can be booked from the reception, "Saimaan saaristo- ja...  more »

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