A new artifact has been found by archaeologists in southwest Finland. The item, a wooden staff with a snake-like carving, was discovered in a wetland, and is believed to be an ancient shaman’s staff. The staff is estimated to be 4,400 years old, and was from a site that revealed a lot of well-preserved artifacts made of wood, bark, and bone:
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The shaman’s staff would have been used in a religious or spiritual ceremony. Perhaps it was even used to communicate with the dead, given that ancient people inhabiting what is now Finland believed in a “Land of the Dead” that was associated with wetlands. Shamans were also believed to be able to transform themselves into snakes, the researchers report, emphasizing the connection between the snake staff and the mystical realm. Other artifacts uncovered by the excavations include a wooden scoop with a bear’s head handle, wooden containers and paddles, fishing tools, pottery, and structural remains.
Organic materials such as wood typically degrade after a long period of time. But the staff was well-preserved because of the environmental conditions at the site where the object was discovered, known as Järvensuo 1. Because it is a wetland, Järvensuo has low oxygen and high humidity, allowing water-logged items to survive.
Image credit: Satu Koivisto