Kanozero Island (Russie) : Stone Age cartoons
Stone Age cartoons
More than 1,000 rock carvings abound on Kanozero Island in Northern Russia. One of them beats The Flintstones by several millennia.
Featured objects are usually displayed in museums. But sometimes there are relics that can’t be put on exhibition – as is the case with one that is hidden deep in the Russian forests.
Knowing that there were rock carvings on some islands in Lake Kanozero, and Jan Magne Gjerde, project manager at the Tromsø University Museum, went out there to document them as part of his doctoral work. When he and his colleagues were done, the number of known petroglyphs had risen from 200 to over 1,000.
Detail from the rock carvings: A beaver.(Photo: Jan Magne Gjerde)
“I still get chills up my spine when I talk about it because it was such an emotional experience finding these carvings,” says Gjerde. “No matter how much I explore over the next 50 years, chances are close to zero that I’ll ever find anything comparable.”
Join a 5,000-year-old bear hunt
In the summer of 2005, Gjerde drove more than 5,300 kilometres east to Lake Kanozero. Together with Russian colleagues he discovered what he calls some of the world’s oldest animated cartoons.
Two carvings outlined with chalk. (Photo: Jan Magne Gjerde)
“Petroglyphs are found at four sites in the area − on three islands and on a stone block on the lakeshore. The oldest ones are from the Stone Age and 5,000 to 6,000 years old,” explains Gjerde.
The main site is on the island of Kanozero.
According to Gjerde, these aren’t like the petroglyphs they are used to seeing, depicting one moose or one deer. These are fantastic cartoons presenting entire episodes. For example the one they found at the main site, which depicts a bear hunt.
This bear hunt has been recorded for all time in bedrock. (Drawing and photo: Jan Magne Gjerde)
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.
“This is the oldest example of a cartoon petroglyph we know of, at least in Northern Europe, so it was utterly thrilling to get the chance to be part of this discovery,” he says.