Rock Art Reveals Prehistoric Seafaring in Sweden

New technology has allowed experts to understand some enigmatic Stone Age rock-art in Sweden, revealing that prehistoric people were already taking to the seas. Archaeologists have been able to reveal a number of images that are not visible to the eye, for the first time. They have been able also to date the pictographs. As a result, researchers now have a better understanding of Stone Age seafarers and society, in this part of Europe.

The rock-art is located on some rocks at Tumlehed, near Gothenburg, in the south-west of Sweden. These images are on the island of Hisingen, a suburb of Gothenburg, some 11 miles (15 km) from the center of Sweden’s second city. They are considered to be some of the best-preserved examples of rock art in all of Scandinavia. However, many of the images have badly faded and are now hard to make out by the naked eye. The site has been regularly investigated by archaeologists in recent decades.

Study of Rock Art

New technologies have allowed many new discoveries to be made in recent years. Archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson and her colleagues decided to use the new technologies to study and date the rock art at Tumlehed, some of which were developed by NASA. According to Mirage News ‘The new technologies used on the Tumlehed rock painting included the digital image enhancing program Dstretch’

Tumlehed rock painting ( CC by SA 3.0)

Elk-Head Boats

It appears that the elk was a very important symbol in that culture, along with species of deer. They were the animals that the hunter-gathers of ancient Fennoscandia were most depended upon for food. Elks, as a result, had great symbolic and possibly even religious significance, for those who made the pictographs.

The team of experts according to Schulz Paulsson have ‘interpreted the motifs in Tumlehed as three elk-head boats related to a small whale, a seal and four fish’ reports It appears that the motif of the boats was related to hunting and fishing. They may have been painted to help the Stone Age people to be more successful in their hunts and long-distance maritime expeditions.


Newly-discovered rock art in Sweden depicting Stone Age seafarers Credit: University of Gothenburg

The results show that technology can provide a window into the ancient past, by allowing us to see ancient art clearly. It is also confirming theories on the Stone Age and prehistoric mariners. The results of the research have been published in the prestigious Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

Top image: Newly-discovered rock art in Sweden depicting Stone Age seafarers Credit: University of Gothenburg

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