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Rock art as Social Format

Chapter in book
Authors Johan Ling
Per Cornell
Published in Changing pictures: rock art traditions and visions in Northern Europe. Oxford: Oxbow Books
Pages 73-88
ISBN 978-1-84217-405-0
Publisher Oxbow books
Place of publication Oxford
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 73-88
Language en
Keywords Rock art, Social format, Rock music, Social expression, orality, narrative
Subject categories Archaeology


The new state of rock art research, in northern Bohuslän, demonstrates a clear maritime location of the panels in the landscape that are dominated by ship depictions. This condition calls for new considerations and discussions of the action and ideology connected to the making of rock art. The practice of prehistoric rock art in the Bohuslän landscape has numerous dimensions. Some panels appear to illustrate more concrete social information, while others present a more suggestive “ritual“ message. These different socio-ritual and spatial articulations is implicitly manifested by the location and by the content of the rock art in the landscape. On the basis of these observations, we will draw attention to and discuss social aspects and theory and how this could be applied on the material. Some scholars claim that rock art was a substitute or complement to oral narratives or oral transmission. However, in this paper we will argue for that rock art was a powerful and productive social medium in itself and cannot be reduced to a mere reflection of the oral. Before proceeding to this discussion, there are some essential conditions regarding the rock art that have to be accounted for.

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