The Republic of Karelia

White Sea petroglyphs

The White Sea Petroglyphs archaeological complex consists of rock paintings from the Neolithic era, discovered in 1926 by Leningrad geography student Aleksandr Linevsky in the Belomorsky district of Karelia. Linevsky went there for practical training ethnographic and, at first, did not find anything interesting. From there, the story starts to resemble a fairy tale: by chance, he met an old believer from the village of Vygostrov, who took the student to an island on the Vyg River, where he found a rock with ancient images known as 'Demon's Footprints'.

In total, about two thousand rock paintings were found on the islands of the Vyg River: everyday scenes, hunting and fishing, and figures of people and animals ranging in size from 3 cm to 3 m.

Site on the map

There is even a man with skis. The 'Demon's Footprints', discovered by Linetsky, are only a part of a greater whole. There are two groups of rock carvings on the former island of Shoyrukshin: the southern one was submerged when a hydroelectric dam was built, and, in 1968, a protective pavilion-museum was erected over the northern group.

There are many drawings on the rock: the space is densely filled with animals, birds, hunters and fishermen. Along the bottom edge, there is a chain of eight footprints of bare feet, which lead to the largest figure, about a metre tall, carved separately from the bulk of the images. This is the Demon, pictured in profile. The ancient artist highlighted his hand, foot and manhood. Clearly, the footprints were left by him. The locals called the figure simply the Devil, and the footprints—the Devil's Footprints. Linetsky called it Demon by analogy with the Onega petroglyphs at Besov Nos Cape (Demon's Nose), which was already known by that time. The creature depicted is thought to be an ancient deity, and the rock was a place where sacrifices were made.

Other clusters of petroglyphs are located 400 m east of the Demon's Footprints, on Erpin Pudas Island, and two more groups, Old Zalavruga and New Zalavruga, are located 1.5 km to the northeast, in the Zalavruga area on the western bank of the Zolotetskoye reservoir. The 21st century has already seen the discovery of new groups, Zolotets I and Zolotets II, in the area of the Zolotets rapids on the same river, the Vyg.

The petroglyphs are easy to reach. The pavilion with the Demon's Footprints is by the road to Belomorsk, across the bridge from the Vygostrovskaya hydroelectric power plant. However, it is now difficult to get inside: in recent years, the pavilion has been locked, and the location is awaiting restoration and reconstruction.

The project involves the construction of a modern road from the Kola road to Zalavruga and the creation of tourist infrastructure. There will be a new bridge across the Kisly Pudas River, an eco-route, a hotel, a café and a visitor centre.

The White Sea Petroglyphs in Petropavlovsk is open. Although in its exhibition there is little information about the petroglyphs themselves, the museum organises field trips to them, upon prior request.