Archaeologists have just unearthed a 4,400-year-old wooden staff at a prehistoric wetland site in Järvensuo, Finland. With the site occupied by Neolithic peoples between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago and one end of the staff shaped like a snake’s head, researchers believe the item was used in rituals — by Stone Age shamans.
The staff was carved from one piece of wood and measured 21 inches, according to NBC News. Led by University of Turku archaeologist Satu Koivisto, the research team was stunned to find the relic a mere 75 miles northwest of Finland’s capital of Helsinki. Its purpose, meanwhile, appears to have been “magical.”
As published in the Antiquity journal, the subsequent study noted that nothing like this has ever been found in Finland before. Furthermore, while some Neolithic snake figurines have previously been found at similar sites across the Baltic region — none have even come close to the realistic snake depiction seen here.
“They don’t resemble a real snake, like this one,” said Koivisto. “My colleague found it in one of our trenches last summer … I thought she was joking, but when I saw the snake’s head it gave me the shivers.”