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Kuusamo Moose Head Axe

The Kuusamo moose head axe is the most remarkable prehistoric find made in Finland in over a hundred years. This skilfully crafted stone item dates back to the Stone Age, 2000–1000 years BCE.

The moose head axe was carved some 4000 years ago from local stone. In Kuusamo, light quartzite is found in the Ruka area.

The artefact gives a new perspective on the history of this area.


”Images of rough Stone Age cavemen should be forgotten. The find reflects high level of technical skill and advanced aesthetic vision.”

Curator Sami Raninen


The moose head shaped poll side of the axe is 17.3 cm long and weighs 319 grams. The quartzite axe is broken at the attachment point of the shaft.

The decorations on the axe are perplexingly sharp-edged. The moose ears are decorated with leaf ornaments and there is a line of small dots, like a string of pearls, on the muzzle. The underside of the neck is ornamented with a fishbone pattern. Having spent thousands of years at the mercy of frost and fluctuating water levels, the stone axe is amazingly well preserved. The reddish-brown spots on the back and ears are due to the iron content of the stone. The fresh crack in the muzzle reveals the lightness of the quartzite.

The Kuusamo moose head axe was found from a summer cottage beach by Lake Joukamojärvi in spring 2023. The cottage owner decided to remove a stone by the stairs that was unsafe for children. The artefact popped up from under the stone.

Based on the Finnish Heritage Agency trial excavations, the cottage yard was a dwelling site in 6000 BCE, in the late Mesolithic Stone Age. As such, there is no link between the habitation and the late Stone Age item. They are thousands of years apart. Based on bone pieces, quartz chips and a flint fragment, the present-day cottage yard was inhabited 3500–4000 years before the moment when someone placed a broken stone item on the ground at Lake Joukamojärvi beach. What actually happened back then, we can only guess.

The Kuusamo moose head axe will give us a more precise idea of the people who lived here 4000 years ago and what their life was like. Research into one of the most remarkable Finnish archaeological discoveries will continue.


Carved approximately 4000 years ago, the moose head axe was intended for cultic or ceremonial use. It was probably a ritualistic or symbolic object that belonged to a person valued by the tribe, for instance, a chieftain. DRAWING Kerttu Määttä