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Arctic’s ancient past revealed: Pre-historic rock carvings and first human settlement

A unique museum in the Russian Arctic displays the oldest in the region cave paintings, which are more than six thousand years old

July 10. /TASS/. A unique museum Petroglyphs of Kanozero (Kanozero is name of a lake) in the Russian Arctic displays the oldest in the region cave paintings, which are more than six thousand years old. Soon, to this place will lead a road, paved by the ancient Roman technology, and next to the petroglyphs visitors will be invited to visit the reconstructed ancient camp and to learn primitive crafts. The museum’s expert Tatyana Kostrova told TASS the museum had applied for grants to finance work on those projects.

Protect from tourists and save for tourists

The Kanozero petroglyphs are rock carvings, made in the fourth millennium BC. They are among five largest monuments of the Neolithic period in the world. The unique complex of petroglyphs is situated on the islands and along the shores of Kanozero in the southeast of the Murmansk region. It includes about 1,200 images of animals, people, lunar and solar symbols, hunting and fishing scenes. The complex was discovered in 1997.

However, the discovery nearly caused a loss of the unique history monument. In natural light, the images are not always visible, so visiting tourists merely trampled them.

A know-how saved them: a double dome of laminated glass was erected above the treasure. The dome is 20 meters in diameter. It sits on metal supports. The dome protects the largest set of drawings - approximately 640 images.

The money for the glass protection - more than 14 million rubles ($233,000) came from the Government of Moscow under an agreement with the Murmansk region.

Now the project is fully completed, the museum’s expert said. "The dome protects the petroglyphs," she said. "The next step would be making a tourist route to this site."

Ancient Roman road into the past

The access to the petroglyphs is not easy for tourists. The objects are in a remote place, the distance from the nearest highway Kandalaksha-Umba is about 20 kilometers, but getting there is very problematic because of the peats -only by boat or all-terrain vehicle or along temporary decking.

The decking’s life is very short, the museum’s expert said, adding the locals want to build a more durable road. And it will be another know-how. The road will be made on the basis of the Greco-Roman civilization’s experience. The floorings of brushwood, laid in a special way, still exist in Europe, but in this country the technology will be used for the first time ever. Thus, the petroglyphs will be accessible for both pedestrians and cyclists. On the route, tourists will take rest at two pavilions. "The new path is being made now already," she said.

The museum’s Director Vladimir Perevalov told TASS earlier, they were collecting information about the area and the images on the website, published tour brochures and other printed products for tourists. "We invite archaeologists and historians as consultants in the project," the director said. For this project, the museum had received a grant of 480 thousand rubles ($8,000) under the program called Museums of Russian North.

How to strike fire and cut out an axe

The Museum has developed several unusual projects, which will complement the exhibition of rock paintings. Next to the petroglyphs the museum will reconstruction a camp of ancient people, where tourists will see how our ancestors lived.

Besides, the museum will offer an interactive ground of primitive crafts, where visitors will learn how to create stone tools, pottery, or to strike fire from stone. Inside the museum, the exposition will present 3D images of the cravings. Thus, the museum hopes to attract more people. "In 2015, 1,500 people visited the island itself, where the petroglyphs are, and in 2016 - 2,000 already," the museum said. "As the path is ready, the number of tourists will grow, we are receiving applications already."

New discoveries

The museum continues the scientific studies of the petroglyphs. A few more images were found a year earlier. Specialists continue researching the nearby territory. They care for keeping the petroglyphs. "We clean the rocks containing drawings, and later on we shall wash them and treat with special solutions that will prevent growth of lichens," the museum’s expert said.