Rock art in southern Scandinavia generally dates from the Bronze Age and depicts boats, long war canoes with lots of oarsmen. Here are some recently found ship panels at Casimirsborg in northern Småland, the new big dot on the country’s rock-art map.
Although rock art is some of the most intriguing source material Bronze Age people left behind, we have a perennial problem tying it into its wider societal context and understanding it. There are few examples of rock-art motifs repeated on bronze artefacts, and few examples of rock-art located in or near other kinds of Bronze Age remains such as graves or settlement sites. The most common link between the art and its society is when recognisable bronze artefacts are depicted in rock art.
Besides ships there are many other motifs, among which one of the most common is a pair of footprints or shoes. Many scholars interpret them as a symbol of someone who must not be depicted.
Joakim Goldhahn of the Linnaeus University has published voluminously on sites where rock art is incorporated into graves. Besides heading the survey that located the above ships, he is now investigating a burial cairn sitting on top of a rock-art panel full of child-size footprints, an extremely rare occurrence. It’s hard to say how much time passed from the completion of the carvings to the day the cairn was erected, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the cairn wasn’t placed on top of the carvings by chance. (All the carvings in the pictures have been filled in with non-permanent white paint for documentation purposes.)
Photographs generously provided by project team member Emelie Svenman.