Saturday, 12 May 2012

Laukaa: Saraakallio rock paintings

Laukaa's Saraakallio in Central Finland can be reached both by water and on foot, and the easiest way to get there is by a marked path from the road between Tarvaala and Kuusaa. Once you have made it to the start of the trail, there is no need for a map. The texts only tell about the place in Finnish language, so this is what it is all about: there are prehistoric rock paintings at Saraakallio rock, and this is the largest rock painting in the whole of Fennoscandia. If I'm lucky, I may soon see images that are thousands of years old!
The trail goes through an opening to the spruce forest where the yellow trail marks guide you forward, towards more open space and pine trees.
I find myself on top of a ridge although there was hardly any ascent. The marked path continues along the ridge but I remember my only previous visit to Saraakallio that the one and only rock painting I discovered was from below. Of course, that time I came here by kayak and my poor footwear was more suitable for sitting in a kayak than walking on slippery, wet rocks...
Following my instinct, I abandon the marked trail and take a path leading towards the shore. Very soon I thank myself for choosing the right footwear this time. Hiking boots are the best for this rocky area where you really have to watch your step on the partly wet ground. Luckily, I slip only once and land on my butt on the wet moss. Careful!
Try as I might, it is far from easy to try to spot a rock painting - they really aren't marked! It takes ages for me to find even one, but finally I decide to trust my judgement and start believing that this red shape was made by a human being some thousand years ago. After all, there are more than a hundred paintings here...
I continue my search, put on sunglasses, take them off, still nothing more. The bright yellows on the bottom of the cliff try to brighten me up but of course it would be great to spot some more rock paintings, not just some pretty lichen!
On I go, walking further beneath the cliffs that are indeed a handsome sight. With or without rock paintings. Lake Saravesi glitters in the sun and I feel I'm higher and higher.
Even higher, on the top of the cliff, there is a neat shoe-shaped piece of rock off which a slice has clearly fallen down ages ago. I really like the shape of it. Why? Shoe is 'kenkä' in Finnish! Hi there mate!
I watch my step even more closely when I continue walking on the steep cliffs, but seeing that others have gone before me, it must be safe enough for me as well. Then I am rewarded: a real rock painting! I interpret these are human figures.
I have finally arrived to the right place. There are many easily distinguishable paintings right here, even if not all shapes are easy to interpret. However, you can't miss this elk walking on the cliff. If the weather wasn't so dry, it would be even easier to spot the red paintings.
I am walking without a guidebook or leaflet so luckily, I get some help from two better equipped walkers in trying to decipher what some of the paintings represent. The one above is apparently a boat with four people on it, and this is the one I remember seeing on my earlier trip. 

It is quite amazing; at Kirkkoniemi, not too far from here, I already felt I've stepped back in time but here I can see artwork created by our ancestors thousands of years ago.
The sign attached to the rock wall says that this is a prehistoric site, protected by law. The rock paintings have stayed there for so long... I really hope they will remain as they are for hundreds, thousands of years.

I descend to the lakeshore but the water level in Lake Saravesi is very high right now, just like in the other lakes in the area, and it is not possible to continue walking along the shore with dry feet. I turn back and return to the marked trail that will lead me to the top of Saraakallio.
Lake Saravesi is quiet and beautiful. I can hear only one motor boat crossing the lake - the summer season hasn't really started yet because the lake hasn't been unfrozen for long. Further away, on the other side of the lake, I can see the church tower at the Laukaa village. I'm taking with me memories of both our prehistoric past and this serene scenery.


  1. I wonder what life was like for those who created the rock paintings. Also I wonder if they could have even fathomed that you would be able to share them with us all over the world electronically through this thing we call the internet...

  2. Even Leonardo da Vinci might have wondered about the internet ;-)