Nattfotografi, en metod som vanligen används av hällristningsforskare för att framhäva topografin på hällytan. Med hjälp av släpljuset blir ristningarna mycket tydligare.
Photo: Bertil Almgren

SHFA - Swedish rock art research archives

Research project
Active research
Project size
37 miljoner SEK
Project period
2006 - ongoing
Project owner
Institutionen för historiska studier

Short description

Our duties mainly involve digitizing analogue documentation of rock carvings. We also aquire our own documentation of rock carvings, mainly in the form of 3D documentation, both image-based SfM and laser scanning. All information gathered by us is made available to researchers and the public via the platform


Swedish rock art research archives is a national archive for rock art documentation and research at the University of Gothenburg, largely funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (an independent foundation funded by the Swedish Central Bank), and from contributions made by the Swedish National Heritage Board’s ”Forskning och Utveckling” (”FoU”, Research and Development, translated), and the Swedish Research Council.

In October 2006, Swedish Rock Art Research Archive (SHFA) was granted three million Swedish krona (SEK) by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond for the construction and establishment of a new database for all rock art research, thus allowing for a new online infrastructure of rock art documentation that could be accessed worldwide.

In 2007 and 2008, the Swedish National Heritage Board awarded a grant from the ”Forskning och Utveckling”-fund, for a preliminary IT study, to be followed by a proposition for a complete and working IT structure to be tested for a pilot period during 2009. The IT system was ready to run in 2009.

The initiative was undertaken due to the strong tradition of rock art documentation in Sweden and the other Nordic countries. As far back in history as 1627 the famous rock art ”Skomakaren” at the Backa in Brastad site in Bohuslän in Sweden, was documented and depicted by the Norwegian priest Peder Alfssön. During the 17th century a Swedish national survey (”Rannsakningarna”) took place, and the rock arts at Boglösa (Enköping) and Glösa (Jämtland) were documented and depicted. Two centuries later, in the 19th century, the curious rock arts in Bohuslän were subject to a widespread documentation campaign. Thanks to this, there is already a large quantity of valuable documentation available. In this particular collection more than 100 000 documents ranging from depictions made on paper, rubbings (”frottage”), tracings on plastic sheets, and castings, to photographs, maps, and descriptions. Since the spring of 2007 the Swedish Rock Art Research Archive has undertaken an extensive survey of the rock art documentation collected in museums, by researchers and scholars, and in private collections, totalling approximately 80 institutions to this date. The material is scanned and registered in ”SHFA Archive” and images are added to the image database ”SHFA Images”. Already a large amount of material deriving from a variety of institutions has been digitalised. In January 2013, digital files amount to about 43 000 of which 5 500 now have been made publicly available on There is also information available in English.

The web portal including SHFA’s website has been developed by the Swedish Miljödata IT Consultants. The infrastructure includes the website with image archive, database, and other rock art information, and also links to the Swedish National Heritage Board’s Archaeological Sites and Monuments database (FMIS) with pertinent maps, and other search engines, e.g. ”Samsök i Kringla”, ”K-Samsök”, and ”Europeana”. The latter ones are large search engines to which both national and international institutions link. Additional maps are available including Eniro and GoogleMaps. Since its start, the web portal has had approximately 100 000 visitors yearly.

Long-term storage and availability of the information in SHFA’s database and systems is guaranteed by the Swedish National Data Service (SND) of the University of Gothenburg.

Since 2011, SHFA has moved to premises suitable for its large equipment in the Vitlycke Rock Art Museum in Tanum. This is thanks to the regional culture establishment Västarvet.

In recent years, SHFA has focused on incorporating and developing digital documentation methods in rock carving research. These include SfM and laser scanning. This has meant that we can offer high-resolution 3D models to the visitors of our website. It has also given kept us on the cutting edge of rock carving research.


The purpose of SHFA is:

  • To make contemporary and historic rock art documentation available for research and the general public by
  • creating an infrastructure with an IT system for research databases and to make these accessible through a digital research archive as well as a public archive for original documentation,
  • resulting from a thorough surveying and registering of rock art documentation in more than 80 official and private archives
  • To scan, digitize, and adjust for the web, the documents and images of these archives
  • To promote and further academic research
  • To introduce and implement digital documentation techniques