The rock carvings in Tanum, in the north of Bohuslän, are a unique artistic achievement not only for their rich and varied motifs (depictions of humans and animals, weapons, boats and other subjects) but also for their cultural and chronological unity. They reveal the life and beliefs of people in Europe during the Bronze Age and are remarkable for their large numbers and outstanding quality.
The Rock Carvings in Tanum, located in the northern part of Bohuslän province in western Sweden (Västra Götaland County), are a unique artistic achievement for their rich and varied motifs (depictions of humans and animals, weapons, boats, and other symbols) and for the cultural and chronological unity they express. They reveal the life and beliefs of people living in the Nordic region of Bronze Age Europe, and are remarkable for their large numbers and outstanding quality. A cultural landscape with a continuity in settlement and consistency in land use that spans more than eight millennia, the area is rendered outstanding by its assemblage of Bronze Age rock art.
Northern Bohuslän is a land of granite bedrock, parts of which were scraped clean about 14,000 years ago as the Scandinavian Ice Sheet slowly moved northward, leaving gently curved rock faces exposed. These were the “canvases” selected by Bronze Age artists. There are at least 1,500 known rock carving sites in northern Bohuslän concentrated in certain areas, including the parish of Tanum. The carvings were executed by pecking and grinding the rock using stone hammers and points. The panels of rock art, skilfully created with simple tools, show a rich diversity of compositions of the highest quality, even when regarded simply as works of art or design. Compared to other similar contexts, these motifs and scenes are even more outstanding in their ability to convey reflections of life and cosmology during the Nordic Bronze Age (c. 1700 BC – 500 BC). It is obvious that the intention of these panels, which are often situated in commanding positions in the landscape, is to convey messages, thereby confirming their role as primary contemporary centres for worship and cult.
The Rock Carvings in Tanum represent a unique artistic achievement through their skilful and detailed depictions of animals, humans, ships, weapons, and symbols of the Bronze Age. These sometimes include lively scenes and complex compositions of elaborate motifs from travel, status, power, warfare, and cult. Some panels, or rather parts of them, were obviously planned in advance. Probably the most evident example of this is the panel at Fossum. In many cases, these motifs, techniques, and compositions create an exceptional testimony to the culture of the European Bronze Age.
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