At the lower course of the Karelian Vyg River short of the town of Belomorsk one can find one of the greatest North European ancient rock art (petroglyphs) monuments.

A. M. Linevsky who discovered the Besovy Sledky rock in 1926 made the petroglyphs famous. In 1936, a Leningrad archeologist V. I. Ravdonikas discovered petroglyphs both in Zalavruga and some other areas. Karelian archeologists under the supervision of Yu. A. Savvateev continued the research work in the 1960 es. They discovered petroglyphs in New Zalavruga and on Erpin Pudas island. N. V. Lobanova (the language institute of the Karelian SC of the RAN) has been doing her research in the field. Some new petroglyph groups and clusters were discovered. Currently, more than 3000 images located in 13 sites are registered.

Belomorsk rock art engravings go back to the Neolithic era. They were made 6.5 thousand years ago when the climate was warmer than nowadays. The petroglyphs are various in motifs and extremely impressive in terms of their engraving manner. Some of the Zalavruga compositions are classified as world rock art masterpieces. Most of the engravings have the length of 20–40 centimeters and certain images are 3 meter length. The ancient artists used some quarts tools called hammer stones to make 1.5–3.5 millimeters depth engravings.


Zalavruga, containing about 2000 engravings, is the richest petroglyph monument in European Russia. The first two hundred images were discovered by V.I.Ravdonikas in 1936. In 1963-1968, an expedition of Karelian archeologists organized by Yu.A.Savvateev discovered 1176 petroglyphs lying under a thick layer of soil in the area located next to the petroglyph site discovered by V.I.Ravdonikas. After the soil layer was removed and petroglyphs were cleared, they got the name of New Zalavruga petroglyphs. The previously discovered engravings were called Old Zalavruga petroglyphs. Nature itself, covering those engravings with soil layer, kept them safe for 5 millennia.

Groups found on islands

Four separated petroglyph clusters are found on two small nameless islands located downstream from the island of Erpin Pudas. The clusters contain both separate images (2-3) and engraving groups containing about 10-15 images. There are no central images which are usually bigger in size than the other engravings. A small number of petroglyphs and the similar engraving manner suggest that they all were made at the same time. Boat images along some images of big boats carrying passengers prevail among the petroglyphs found on the islands. A new petroglyph group was recently discovered on a big nameless island. The discovery was made in 2006 during an expedition organized by Petrozavodsk State University.

Erpin Pudas

There are 4 petroglyph groups on the island. The two first petroglyph groups were discovered by V.I.Ravdonikas’s expedition in 1936. The third group, which is the biggest one and contains about one hundred engravings, was discovered by Yu.A.Savvateev in 1969-1970. The last group was discovered by N.V.Lobanova in 2008. The petroglyphs’ condition is poor except for some engravings. They can be hardly seen on the rough rock surface damaged by weathering. Along with common deer and boat images one can see some unique engravings showing Onega boats, for example, or some expressive images of seals, swans or geese, a white whale man image, that might be a sea-god, and the image called “Karelian Kamasutra”.

Besovy Sledky (pavilion)

The petroglyphs were discovered in 1926 by A.M.Linevsky on the northern cap of the island of Shoyrukshin. This petroglyph group was protected against weathering with a special pavilion constructed in 1968. The petroglyphs cover the rock area of 12.5 square meters. The rock surface is quite even and slopes towards the river. The rock height is about 1.5-2 meters (19-20 meters above sea level). The group contains about 400 separate engravings varying in subjects. The images of such forest animals as deer or meese, and of such sea animals as white whales, seals and probably seahorses prevail in the group. The engraving of so called Evil Spirit showing an anthropomorphic creature which height is about 1 meter is considered to be a rare one.