Differences in rock carvings of the eastern- and western part of Sweden

The following analysis is based upon personal experiences from fieldwork conducted in Norrköping and Bohuslän. I have mostly been working in the western part of Sweden, but made some observations, when I did rock care in the eastern part of Sweden, Norrköping. My projectleader in Norrköping, Theres Furuskog, has the opposite experience -she has mostly been working with the carvings of the eastern part of Sweden, but have observed some differences in the carvings of the west. She has written about it at: www.hällristningar.se This blog is worth visiting, and contains a lot of useful information about the carvings of Norrköping 🙂

The "famous" sword from the Ekenberg panel. Note the size of the sword compared with my foot, which is a size 37.

The “famous” sword from the Ekenberg panel (Raä 23). Note the size of the sword compared with my foot, which is a size 37 (photo: Mette Rabitz)

Weapons: In Norrköping the carvings contain a lot of weapons, sometimes in realistic size. The Ekenberg panel displays many full-sized swords, and also the “famous” sword, which gave weight to Bror Emil Hildebrands argument that the rock carvings should be dated to the bronze age. What is interesting is that in Norrköping, most types of weapons are dated to the early bronze age, for instance swords and axes which could also look like lurs. In contrast, the weapons displayed on many of the panels in Tanum, can often be dated to late bronze age, like shields and swords. Another interesting contrast is that in Tanum, the weapons etc. are often connected to human figures, while in Norrköping the weapons are often  displayed isolated, without any connection to human figures. It is as if the two areas display the periods in different ways. -In Tanum some spirals seem connected to the type of spiral, which is displayed as decorations on items from the early bronze age, for instance belt plates and shields. While the same period is represented with swords and axes in Norrköping.


Human figure from Tanum, with pre-roman iron age shield (photo: Mette Rabitz).


Human figures: Stylistically there is also a difference in the human figures between these two areas. First of all the size, in Tanum the largest human figure is found on the Litslebypanel (T-75), situated in the area of Tegneby. The height of the human figure is 280 cm. and it holds a 235 cm. long spear. In Norrköping, the largest human figure appears on the Leonardsberg panel (Raä-84), and is 70 cm. high. This figure is also holding a spear. The elongated calves of this figure is also a little rare in Norrköping-area, most human figures have legs which fit the rest of the body in dimensions. In Tanum most human figures have elongated calves, and here it is believed that the style of the legs can be used for dating. In the pre-roman iron age the roman soldiers wore some sort of protection on the front of their legs, and some scientists see this protection as the elongated calves displayed in the carvings.


Human figure from the Litsleby panel in Tanum. The height of the human is 2.8 m. (Photo: Mette Rabitz).


Human figure from the Leonardsberg panel in Norrköping. The height of the figure is 0,7 m. (photo: Mette Rabitz).


In Norrköping a large amount of the ships have prows, which according to Kauls typological shipchronology can be dated to the bronze age´s period I-III. But the shipmotives of Norrköping also sometimes have geometric decorations in the body of the ship. This is as far as I know, not seen in Tanum. Norrköping also has an odd type of ship, which is as far as I know not seen in Tanum, but have been found recently on panels in Bornholm in Denmark.

Geometric ship from Himmelstalund, Raä 1, Norrköping. (photo: Mette Rabitz).

Geometric ship from Himmelstalund, Raä 1, Norrköping. (photo: Mette Rabitz).


Odd looking type of stem, under thich layers of algaes and lichen, from Karlsberget in Norrköping (photo: Theres Furuskog).

Odd looking type of prow, under thick layers of algaes and lichen, from Karlsberget in Norrköping (photo: Theres Furuskog).


Due to differences in rock type, there must have been differences in the proces of carving, and also in the use of tools to carve with. But the different rock types also means a huge difference, when painting the carvings. When painting rock carvings, one can either use non-permanent paint or permanent paint. The non-permanent paint I know of, is white, and consist of water and chalk. The consistency of the mix should be like milk with water. I have been working with this type of paint, when I have been participating in fieldwork at Tanums Hällristningsmuseum. This paint is also sometimes used by the researchers, who document with tracing. -In order to see, what to trace, or alternatively the outlines of the carvings can be chalked before tracing. The technique is to kind of dab the paint into the rock, while moving the paintbrush very little.  You may have a look at the video below.


When I worked in Norrköping, we painted the carvings with permanent red paint. First the paintbrush was dipped in water, before dipping it into the paint. Hereafter the carving was paintede, by slightly moving the paintbrush back and forth. The techniques is somehow a little different, compared with using non-permanent paint. This is due to differences in consistency of the paint, but also depends on the surface of the rock, in Norrköping the surface was very smooth and in Tanum it was very rough.

Painting carvings at Himmelstalund, using permanent paint (photo: Theres Furuskog).

Painting carvings at Himmelstalund in Norrköping, using permanent paint (photo: Theres Furuskog).


It has been a while, since my last post. The time runs so fast, every day takes the other! If it was possible, I would wish the day had more hours! Time runs so fast, and I am also busy with some articles about digital documentation and photogrammetry, and preparation for a coming lecture. But I am definitely not complaining! It is nice to have something to do, and being outside all day, and experience a lot of interesting stuff 🙂

Recently, we worked with Sven Gunnar Broström and Kenneth Ihrestam. We cleaned the panels, and they documented it, with the tracing method. For a thorough description of the method, take a look at the menu documentation – tracing, which has been updated! 

I also got to try the tracing method 🙂



Rock carvings -coming soon to a TV near you ;)

We had a TV-interview at the Ekenberg panel. They interviewed our projectleader, and did some filming of our work. We have also had some newspapers to visit us, some weeks ago Folkbladet was at Herrebro. You can see the outline of the article at: http://www.folkbladet.se/kultur/default.aspx?articleid=6408766

SVT visited us at Ekenberg

During the last days we have been working at Ekenberg, where one can see many beautiful carvings. The panel is situated on a field with surrounding pine trees, so it reminded me of the typical setting for the panels of the westcoast. At the westcoast, almost every panel is surrounded by forest. In Norrköping, the typical setting is an open landscape with no or few trees around the Panels. We planned to finish the cleaning and painting after some days, but realized it will take a little longer. The carvings have a lot of lichens and algaes, and it is really hard to remove. The surface in the carvings is very uneven, with a lot of small holes. -The lichens really appreciate the small holes, and it is really hard to clean the holes, cause they are almost too small. Perhaps the lichens are hard to remove because of te surrounding trees..




Working with the rock carvings, Norrköping – so far…

I have now been working with the carvings for some weeks. As mentioned before, the dominating type of rock in this area is slate. So the surface is very uneven, and does not feel so smooth. Many of the panels have not been documented since Arthur Nordén in the 1920’s, so it has been possible to find new carvings, which were not present on his documentations. The carvings have been painted many times, so our job is to clean away algaes and lichens, and repaint the carvings.



Raä 53, Herrebro (photo:Mette Rabitz)

In this week, we finished the work at Leonardsberg. The two panels were situated on a field with sheep, so now and then they visited us, and tried to see if they could eat some of our equipment… I got the opportunity to paint the largest human figure in Norrköping 🙂 It is 0,7 m. high and is one of the few human figures from this area, which have elongated calves. When painting carvings, it is nescesarry to locate the edges of the motive, so it really force you to investigate the details. It seemed as if the line, which is hold by the adorant, ends in a lance in the right end, so it was not just a line, as the previous paint presented. But according to Nordéns drawing, the peak of the lance should be in the other end… It could be interesting to do some photogrammetry of this motive, in order to study the pecking marks, and check if some details have been updated.


Raä 84, Leonardsberg, before (photo: Mette Rabitz)


Raä 84, Leonardsberg, after my painting (photo: Mette Rabitz)


Yesterday we started to paint one the panels at Himmelstalund, called ” the axe panel”. It was a warm day on the rock, but we had visitors, and some children also came to us, and wanted to know it was difficult to paint.


Some motives from “The axe panel” at Himmelstalund, before (photo: Mette Rabitz)


After my painting (photo: Mette Rabitz)



Now in Norrköping, Sweden

A week ago, I arrived in Norrköping, which is part of “Östra Götalands län“, which is situated on the eastern coast of Sweden. In the next months, I will participate in fieldwork related to the many rock carvings of the area. For more information of the work, please visit my projectleaders blog: www.hällristningar.se Recently there has been an experiment with cleaning the rock surface with “ultra clean” water, which is water cleansed from mineral, salt and chalk. You may also see more information about this, on the before mentioned link 🙂

I think it is a very interesting experience for me, to work with the carvings of Norrköping. First of all the motives differ slightly from the ones from the westcoast (Västra Götalands län). Previously I have only experience with the rock carvings of the westcoast, so it is quite new to me, but very useful for me to get to work in a new area. Another challenging, but interesting experience is that the rock carvings in Norrköping are carved on slate. On the westcoast the dominating rock is granite. Some days ago, I showed the rest of the team how to document with the rubbing method. It was somehow a little different to rub on a slate surface, cause the surface is very uneven, and it seems that one has to press the carbon much harder, than if one was documenting a granite surface.

(Photo: Theres Furuskog)

(Photo: Theres Furuskog)