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To all our relations: evidence of Sámi involvement in the creation of rock paintings in Finland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2013

Francis Joy*
The Faculty of Art and Design, The Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, P.O. Box 122, Rovaniemi, Finland (


Research undertaken between 1960 to 1990 into what was once a rock painting tradition in Finland, lacked a clear understanding of parallels between the painted figures found at rock painting locations in the southern and central areas of the country, and the motifs painted on the heads of Sámi shaman divination drums from Lapland. However, due to the discovery and analysis of the content of more rock painting sites in Finland from 1990 up to the present, a more comprehensive framework has emerged in which scholars from across different academic disciplines have discovered many more similar characteristics linking the rock paintings and drum symbolism. These recent findings point towards the survival of a nature based sacrificial religion from the Stone Age era in Finland. The source of this was shamanistic in its essence, and is seen portrayed on rock and boulder formations by hunters similarly to how figures were illustrated on drum heads by the Sámi shamans from the nomadic era of the 17th and 18th centuries in Lapland. This more recent recognition strengthens the argument for Sámi involvement in the creation of rock paintings in Finland.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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