The Virukoda Museum of Prehistoric Art Estonia


(Dates: 4th, April, 2008 - 15th, September, 2008)

Press release

The petroglyphs of Karelia are a peak representation of rock art in the world. Forever nameless to us, the creators of these works carved them during the Neolithic period over 6 000 years ago. Also nearly undecipherable to the modern man is the hidden meaning of the carvings. Nevertheless, these examples of an ancient lifestyle give rise to a deep curiosity in us, stirring thoughts and imagination; a yearning to know more of how these people lived their daily lives, what they believed in and who they bowed down to. Petroglyphs include a whole world of characters, at times fantastic and incredible, sometimes extraordinarily vivid, dynamic and realistic; it is no coincidence that scientific publications call them "the Bible of the stone age" and "masterpieces".

In the region of Karelia, petroglyphs are known to be found in two places: in Besov Nos of the east shores of Lake Onega and the in lower course of River Vyg near the old pomor village of Vygostrov. The first ones were found by geologist Konstantin I. Grewingk already at the middle of 19th century and the next were found at the end of 1920s by ethnologist Aleksandr M. Linevski. The carvings have been cut to the granite shores of isles and peninsulas. They are usually relatively well preserved and are ready to serve as museums of primitive art. The petroglyphs of Lake Onega comprise about 1200 different patterns and the ones of the White Sea nearly 2500.

The relics of antiquity in the rocks of Karelia have gathered more serious attention in the last few years. As a result of this a couple of hundred "new" petroglyphs have been discovered. Starting from 2002, the Institute of language, literature and history under the Karelian research centre of the Russian academy of sciences has cooperated with Cambridge University in studying Zalavrug and its surrounding landscape. In 2006 a small project called "The book of stone of the White Sea" was executed under the Tacis-program of the European Union. The project was led by Leena Lehtinen of Kierikki center. It consisted of examining the current state of the petroglyphs, gathering international know-how of the field, promoting petroglyphs, encouraging the locals to participate in the protection of rock art and the surrounding nature and also of developing cultural tourism in the area of Belomorsk. 2007 saw a new project, planned for a duration of two years: "The preservation and exhibition of the Karelian petroglyphs". Partners include archaeologists from Karelia and Norway. The main mission is to create programs for short and long time frames of utilizing the petroglyphs of the White Sea in tourism in a sustainable and reasonable way.Zalavruga panel

The research period of 2006-7 focused on finding new carvings, getting the outlines of previously recorded ones more exact and documenting carvings in various ways: by copying to ordinary and cotton fiber paper, by verbal descriptions and photography. A known Karelian photographer, Igor Georgievski, has in the last two years methodically taken photos of rock art in a way that allows for a later combining of the pieces to form seamless pictures of whole groups of carvings. This method is in use for the first time in Russia, which was also the reason for the publishing of such images in the Russian edition of National Geographic.A research team led by Helena Taskinen of Finnish National Board of Antiquities recently used a similar method in capturing to film over half of the (known) rock paintings of Finland. The exhibition presented to you now, "The petroglyphs of the White Sea", is a demonstration of the continuing, great and exceptionally meticulous work done by a master photographer.

The collective working at the petroglyphs of Karelia was already born in 1999. It has included, along with archaeologists, the painter Svetlana Georgievskaja and photographer Igor Georgievski, who have gathered a wealth of experience in documenting the relics of the rocks.

Nadezha Lobanova , a candidate of history sciences, research specialist at the sector of archaeology of the Institute of language, literature and history under the Karelian research centre of the Russian academy of sciences, the coordinator of the (Karelian-Norwegian) project for preserving and exhibiting the Karelian petroglyphs.