Rock Carvings in Tanum (1994)
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 below stamps are a full set depicting the rock carvings, each of them being vertical coil stamps.
Sweden 1954. Rock Carvings in Tanum. Colours: grey, dark orange, red, green.
Sweden 1954. Rock Carvings in Tanum. Colours: light orange, dark brown, green, dark blue, violet.
The rock carvings in Tanum in northern Bohuslän take the visitor into the social and religious life of the Bronze Age people. The area in Tanum consists of more than 350 highly varied groups of carvings spread out over the flat rock. They are interpreted as primitive symbolic art with motifs and positioning carefully planned by the people who carved these works.
In northern Bohuslän there are roughly 1,500 known rock carvings, and new ones are constantly being discovered. A large and unusually varied collection of them can be found in Tanum.
Here archaeologists have found thirteen types of figures and motifs, such as cup marks, ships, sleighs, animals, humans, hands, feet, trees, and weapons. The pictures describe the social life of Bronze Age people, their spiritual experiences, beliefs, and rites.
The figures in rock carvings should mostly be regarded as isolated motifs, but in Tanum there are several large works with a unified composition. One example is the Fossum carving, where some 130 closely placed figures - which never overlap - give a distinct impression of a deliberate composition. The images were presumably carved by a single person during a short time. There are several hunting scenes and beautifully drawn deer.
When the pictures were carved on the rocks of Tanum, 1800-500 B.C., they were beside the water's edge. Today they are 25-30 metres above sea level. The rock carvings that make up the World Heritage site are Aspeberget/Tegneby, Fossum, Kallsängen, Litsleby, Södra Ödsmål, Torsbo, and Vitlycke.
The carvings are now threatened by cracking due to frost and heat, harmful substances in vehicle emissions, salt from the sea, and the widespread acidification. They are weathering at an increasing speed, but great efforts are being devoted to documenting, protecting, and preserving the carvings for all time. This work is being done as part of the National Heritage Board's project "RockCare – Tanum Cultural Heritage Laboratory".
Other World Heritage Sites in Sweden (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Sweden section, for further information about the individual properties.
Back to index
Revised 21 jul 2006