Scientific activity

Rock Carvings (Petroglyphs) in Karelia. 10

Having become imperishable the rock images were now still more convincing embodiments of the supernatural powers and capabilities standing behind them, giving an opportunity of regular direct contacts with them.
As the boundaries of the sanctuaries expanded or shifted more rock pictures appeared. As a result rock art complexes including great numbers of figures formed on large areas. It is unlikely that all their parts functioned simultaneously. The principal rites and actions must have taken place mostly in the centres of such complexes, which also tended to move with time: on Lake Onega - from Besov Nos to Peri Nos, and then to the river Vodla estuary; in the White Sea area - from Besovy Sledki to Zalavruga.
Neither sanctuary can be called hidden or inaccessible. They are situated within the fishing and hunting grounds on the major communication routes along the shore or coast line - both on water and land. Access to the sanctuaries, which were naturally not much concealed, was controlled by the types of rites, their periodicity, traditions etc. The rites themselves were mainly performed in spring and summer when the rock pictures freed of snow, and the water level stayed within the norm.
Rock pictures are indications of the human wish to comprehend the surrounding world of nature, to identify the hidden powers, links and relations standing behind the nature reality, its sometimes threatening manifestations. The techniques used in this connection were assimilation, animation and personification. Building upon the known, animating the Nature, furnishing it with their own generic traits and individual psychological features, mobilizing their fantasy people created an imaginary world of semi-fantastic and fantastic images possessing supernatural powers and capabilities.
People believed that the ground for any natural phenomena, especially the extreme ones, were mysterious spiritual powers. In order to win their guardianship and support one had to know and understand these powers, maintain direct personal contact with them. Rock pictures were in a way a means of such direct contact and communication allowing humans to achieve if only illusory agreement with the habitat, and attenuate alienation of the society from the nature. The surrounding world was percieved as an entity with a close web of visible and invisible interrelations.
In reality, petroglyphs strengthened social links, established certain moral rules and traditions, fixed positive knowledge and skills, enriched the spiritual life of people, developed human mind. Considerable intellectual efforts and experience were needed to transfer the existing notions to the rock surface presenting information in the illustrative form. The engraved figures did not simply record an image or a veneration object, but helped to grasp the meaning of the phenomena related to it. This created a tendency towards narration, extensive compositions, peculiar narrative scenes. The wish to better communicate the meaning of the images and scenes pictured on the rocks urged ancient artists to improve their artistic language, make it more expressive. Rock pictures give also an idea about the different degrees of giftedness, training and skills of the artists themselves.
Karelian petroglyphs are felt to be close to the earth. Real objects: forest and sea animals, birds, people, boats, bows and harpoons, trails etc., are very common. These objects however are only prototypes. We also see that the pictures very often do not follow the reality. There is a distinct tendency for schematic representation, the wish and ability to stress and graphically express the most important things. Individual elements and details are skillfully used to highlight the specific features of the images and scenes. At the last stage however the pictures become more schematic again their composition getting poorer and more repetitive.
The rites in which the petroglyphs were used hardly had any narrow specialization related strictly to magic, totemism, animism or some other belief. They most likely synthesized these traditions. Initiation rites, rites related to the beginning or termination of the hunting and fishing period, ancestor worships arid numerous other rites could take place here.
previous | 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | next

Last modified: July 16, 2006