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Transforming the Rocks - Time and Rock Art in Bohuslän, Sweden

Journal article
Authors Christian Horn
Potter Rich
Published in European Journal of Archaeology
Volume 21
Issue 3
Pages 361-384
ISSN 1461-9571
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 361-384
Language en
Keywords prehistory, rock art, Nordic Bronze Age, anthropomorphic representations, RTI
Subject categories Archaeology, North European


Human representations are one of the most important groups of depictions in rock art in southern Scandinavia. These humans have long been discussed as complete, stable, and temporally-fixed images. The results of a new survey challenge this view. Recording rock art with Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) enabled us to discern a possible sequence of production of individual human representations, their bodily features, and associated objects. Figures from a rock art site in Finntorp (Tanum, Sweden) will be used as an example. Differences in the dimensions of the engraved lines, the chronology of the depicted objects, and the placement of body parts suggest that several individuals may have been involved in making human representations on the rocks, and that their appearance as complete figures is the result of repeated transformations. The results presented demonstrate that Scandinavian rock art is not stable in time. We suggest that rock art is best understood as the creation of communities over time, which enables them to engage with the past by transforming the rocks.

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