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16 March 2012
Stone Age 'cartoons' discovered in Russia

Knowing there were rock carvings on some islands in remote Lake Kanozero, Russia, Jan Magne Gjerde, project manager at the Tromso University Museum, Norway, went there to document them as part of his doctoral work. When he and his Russian colleagues were done, the number of known petroglyphs had risen from 200 to over 1,000.
     "Petroglyphs are found at four sites in the area - on three islands and on a stone block on the lakeshore. The oldest ones are from the Stone Age and 5,000 to 6,000 years old," explains Gjerde. Most of the petroglyphs were still covered in sod when Gjerde and his colleagues arrived, and much of their time was spent removing this turf and washing the uncovered rock.
     According to Gjerde, these aren't isolated petroglyphs, but fantastic cartoons presenting entire episodes. One they found at the main island site depicts a bear hunt. Gjerde describes in detail a hunter who is heading uphill on skis and tracking a bear. The ski tracks are just as one would expect for someone going up a slope, with a good distance between the strides. The hunter then gets his feet together, skis down a slope, stops, removes his skis, takes four steps - and plunges his spear into the bear. "This is the oldest example of a cartoon petroglyph we know of, at least in Northern Europe," he says.
     Gjerde and his colleagues marked off the figures in chalk and then traced this onto plastic sheets, which could be properly photographed and documented. The figures depicted include moose, boats, whales, humans, harpoon lines, beavers and other ordinary and extraordinary images and scenes from the distant past.

Edited from ScienceNordic (10 March 2012)

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