Study sites

So far acoustic measurements have been performed at three sacred sites in northern Finland, namely, two prehistoric rock paintings (5200 to 1000 BC) and one Sámi offering site from the historical period (circa 1100 to present). All of these sites are located on steep cliffs rising on the shores of narrow canyon-like lakes, where the water levels have remained constant throughout the past millennia. As the cliffs fall straight into the water, the sites can only be accessed by boat or, during the winter, over the frozen surface of the lake.    


The rock painting of Värikallio, in Suomussalmi, is one of the largest of its type in Finland, with at least 60 distinguishable images. The paintings have been crafted in a tight cluster on the face of a smallish cliff at the eastern end of Lake Somerjärvi. They include characteristic figures of triangle-headed humans, stick-figure elk or deer, geometric motifs and non-cervid animals that may represent lizards or beavers. In addition, several drumming human figures previously unknown in Finnish rock art were identified during our fieldwork.


The rock painting of Julma-Ölkky, in Kuusamo, lies approximately 3.5 km to the north-east of Värikallio, on a tall fractured cliff rising on the eastern shore of a lake similarly called Julma-Ölkky. With just three or four faint images, it is a much humbler site than Värikallio. There is a small painting of an elk facing right and two stick-figure humans of roughly the same size. A fourth figure, perhaps another elk, may be present to the right of the elk. The cliff itself, however, is more imposing than Värikallio.


The offering site of Taatsinkirkko is a smooth cliff surface rising on the northern shore of a narrow canyon lake called Rotkojärvi in Kittilä. Ethno-historical sources describe that the Sámi used to offer fish and reindeer there. According to Samuli Paulaharju (1932), a collector of ethnographic knowledge, the Sámi sang "their sieidi-prayers" at the foot of Taatsinkirkko because the cliff echoed. The expression "sieidi-prayer" undoubtedly refers to what, in Sámi culture, is known as joik, a type of magical singing.


Paulaharju, Samuli 1932. Seitoja ja seidan palvontaa. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.