Rock Art of Alta - History and Facts | History Hit

Rock Art of Alta

Alta, Norway

Peta Stamper

02 Sep 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Rock Art of Alta

Located in Finnmark, the northernmost region of Norway, the Rock Art of Alta comprises over 6,000 fascinating prehistoric carvings some of which dating back to 4200 BC. Today, one of the areas boasting these ancient carvings has been turned into an open-air museum, and the Rock Art of Alta is one of Norway’s 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Rock Art of Alta history

The rock carvings were made during a period when Norway’s population were hunter-gatherers – almost 5,000 years ago. People of the late stone age and early metal age saw a great deal of cultural change, starting to use metal tools in boat building and for fishing.

This period of flux is reflected in the rock art alongside more consistent images such as reindeer and bears, which both played special roles in the prehistoric Norwegian culture.

The rock carvings were likely made using quartz chisels, likely hammered with harder rock – tools that continued to be used after people started using metal tools.

The first of the carvings were discovered in 1973 in an area called Jiepmaluokta, which in Northern Sami means ‘bay of seals’. More carvings were found throughout the 1970s and were connected by a system of wooden walkways totalling 3 kilometres.

Rock Art of Alta today

Today, as well as wandering the wooden walkways and interpreting for yourself what the incredible, red rock carvings might mean, you can visit the World Heritage Rock Art Centre or Alta Museum, which displays objects relating to the prehistoric peoples responsible for the rock art at Alta – including the indigenous Sami culture.

Getting to the Rock Art of Alta

Open between 9am and 5pm, the easiest way of reaching the Alta Museum and rock carvings is by driving along the E6 highway – a long but scenic drive from Tromsø.

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