The region in which the four sites of the petroglyphs were uncovered is lake Kanozero, as described by Gjerde in an article written in ScienceNordic by Hanne Jakobsen:
“Petroglyphs are found at four sites in the area − on three islands and on a stone block on the lakeshore. The oldest ones date to between 5,000 and 6,000 years old” (qtd. Hanne).
These petroglyphs are not simple images though, like what one might be used to seeing. A majority of them were full detailed and sequenced, like that of a cartoon.
"He describes in detail a hunter who is heading uphill on skis and tracking a bear. The ski tracks are just as one would expect for someone going up a slope with a good distance between the strides. The hunter then gets his feet together, skis down a slope, stops, removes his skis, takes four steps – and plunges his spear into the bear" (Hanne).
I myself find the depiction equally remarkable in its quality. Certainly I have not seen similar images as accurate in detail before. It makes me ponder if the creator of such images was attempting to be precise, or if it was just a result of the intricate process of etching the image into stone.
Uncovering and documenting the vast array of petroglyphs was not an easy task, as the article surely indicates both in words and photos.
As the image above clearly shows, much of the petroglyphs were still hidden beneath layers of sod. Much of the ten days spent by the work team at the site consisted of removing the sod and washing the surface of the stone slabs carefully. I can only imagine the difficulty in doing such work, but it showcases the collaborative efforts a team of archaeologists can put forth for a common goal.
This image was taken during the documentation process of the sites. You can see Jan Gjerde working on one of the countless petroglyphs. As you can probably tell, he is not sitting directly on the stone itself. In order to document these petroglphs, the work team spread out large plastic sheets over the stone surface, tracing the petroglyphs with felt pens after highlighting them previously with chalk before placing the plastic sheets.
Gjerde admits that it was frustrating work, especially when it rained, as Hanne describes:
“Actually I didn’t have enough plastic sheeting with me because I had only expected 200 petroglyphs, not a thousand. It was pretty frustrating at times and I used all my clothes and everything I had of paper to dry off the plastic" (qtd. in Hanne).
The petroglyphs do not just depict land-based hunting and living tales either. As this image below shows, the people who etched these images were also hunters of the sea, most likely hunting Beluga whales in the White Sea.
Mind you, there is three sheets together depicting this whale hunt, each sheet is a meter wide, making the whole image three meters long. Quite a spectacular sight it must be to see in person.
Gjerde remarks about the lifestyle that the creators of these petroglyphs must have lived.
“Look for instance at this whale,” he says. “It’s over a metre long and the entire figure is hewn out in full depth. This says something about the lifestyle of the people who made the carvings. It must have been a fairly rich society because to make such grand petroglyphs you need your share of leisure time" (qtd. in Hanne).
This remark strikes me as somewhat controversial. How could such people who spent so much leisure time etching these images be skilled at hunting such mammoth beasts? Was the population large, or was the hunting done in shifts? Perhaps those questions will never be answered.
In the end, this discovery is truly remarkable in both its scale and the effort put forth by the work team to document it. For Jan Gjerde, it was a lifetime achievement, which he comments in the article in two separate ways:
“These people, at this spot, documented part of their lives and I was fortunate to be one of the first people in 5,000 years to see it,” (qtd. in Hanne).
True words of the joy of archaeology indeed.
Hanne Jakobsen. "Remarkable Russian Petroglyphs." pasthorizonspr.com. Past Horizons Magazine. 18 March. 2012 Web. 27 March. 2012.