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Finland Snake

3 July 2021

This story came out last month but Phys.Org have updated it – see https://phys.org/news/2021-06-ancient-snake-finland.html … The snake in question is made of wood and its head is carved quite deliciously, and the body encapsulates the slithering nature of the beast. It is just 53 cm in length and 2.5 cm thick. It is incredibly well preserved – and was found with other wooden items, seemingly after the drowning of a campsite of hunter-gatherers. It resembles an adder, we are told, or a grass snake. The latter is not venomous and can be handled, but is known to inhabit watery places. It is apparently 4400 years of age. The soil in the area is said to be acidic – but the wooden objects were retrieved from peat, which is formed in very wet habitat. In fact, the peat bogs of NW Europe have seen accelerated phases of peat production in the historical past as a result of extremely wet weather over a prolonged period. One such period of peat formation was in the second half of the third millennium BC – and the snake is dated to 4400years ago. These periods of excessive rainfall in NW Europe coincided with extremely dry conditions in the Near and Middle East. There are two major low growth tree ring episodes at this  time, dated at 2350BC and 2200BC [Baillie]. The latter date coincided with the end of the Akkadian Empire and the collapse of dynasty 6 in Egypt, ushering in the famines of the First Intermediate Period. As Finland experienced the wetter weather which would have flooded marshes and fens, turning them into lakes, periodically or for long periods of time, one can see the wooden objects could have been preserved – especially if they were buried in soil and sediment.

See also https://news.yahoo.com/4-400-old-shamans-snake-130845798.html … where the title claims the snake belonged to a shaman, or the concept of shamans created by modern pagans. Obviously, it could not be the work of somebody who just liked to whittle away at a bit of wood to produce the likeness of a creature he was familiar with. It is assumed by the author of the piece that it was a shaman's staff – used in magical rituals. Yet it was only 53 cm in length, or 21 inches. Maybe he was a midget shaman, a pixie or a gnome. We are also told it was about an inch thick – at its widest point. All the better to lean on. It was found in a buried layer of peat 75 miles NW of Helsinki., Whatever it was used for, and no doubt it had some sort of symbolical meaning, it is a hunter-gatherer masterpiece – in wood. I like the idea it was a representation of a grass snake as I can remember scratching around the local stream in search of them when I was a boy, sometimes being successful. Not the sort of thing you want to take home to show your mum, and not really suitable as a pet, they are nevertheless interesting as they move from arm to arm in their attempt to escape. One might imagine a hunter-gatherer youth having the same fascination, and rendering the snake in wood in order to have a permanent record of it. On the other hand it may have an abstract meaning, something like a meteor [a snake in the sky],especially if a shaman was involved, whether a pixie or gnome in size.

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