The White Sea Petroglyphs

The White Sea Petroglyphs

The White Sea Petroglyphs are important monuments of the prehistoric rock-carving art.

The term “petroglyph” comes from two Greek words: “petra”, which means “rock”, and “glyph”, which means “carving”.

There are a lot of theories trying to explain what prehistoric people wanted to express with these signs. Sometimes it seems clear, when the attributes of real life are shown: animals, birds, boats and humans. Hunting scenes could be explained as a demonstration of "hunting magic". Petroglyphs of this kind are located by the White Sea.

On the smooth granite rocks we discover figures of humans and animals, often superimposed on another.

In the most striking scene three hunters in three boats have stuck their harpoons into the strong body of a beluga whale. We can see this hunt was challenging, and the hunters must have developed special tactics to catch this marine animal. 

Nearby we come across a detailed scene of winter hunting. Three skiers chase and shoot arrows into three elks. 

What is the purpose of these rock carvings? On the one hand, rock carvings might have served future generations as instructions for a successful hunt; or they could be an allusion to Stone Age myths. One of the scenes is interpreted as a legend about “Crime and Punishment”, where three archers hit a man who has stolen a basket-like object. Alongside, the image of a reindeer whose leg ends in a spiral is thought to be related to ancient solar cults. 

Today, reading the pages of the rock book by these ancient masters, we conclude that living in Neolithic times was hard. People could only survive the severe climatic conditions through their own efforts. To get through cold winters people needed warm clothes and caches of food. Reindeer skins made decent winter coats and boots. It was incredible good fortune when they caught a beluga whale because it provided them with lots of meat. Beluga fat was also a source of vitamins. Hunting sea animals was hazardous but it ensured the tribes well-being.

Nowadays the White Sea (Belomorsk) Petroglyphs are an open air museum of prehistoric rock carvings where we can see the first attempts of a human to express thoughts and feelings.

It is relatively easy to reach the White Sea Petroglyphs. They are located in a place called Zalavruga, not far from the White Sea coast, the River Vyg and the town of Belomorsk. There is a sign by the road and a car parking, from which a forest trail goes to the Petroglyphs.

The local museum of Belomorsk and private guides arrange walking tours to the White Sea Petroglyphs.

It is relatively easy to reach the White Sea Petroglyphs. They are located in a place called Zalavruga, not far from the White Sea coast, the River Vyg and the town of Belomorsk. There is a sign by the road and a car parking, from which a forest trail goes to the Petroglyphs.

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