Tanum Rock Carvings - History and Facts | History Hit

Tanum Rock Carvings

Tanumshede, Vastra Gotalands lan, Sweden

The Tanum Rock Carvings are a collection of hundreds of Bronze Age rock carvings found around the modern town of Tanumshede in Sweden.

Peta Stamper

12 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Tanum Rock Carvings

The UNESCO-listed Tanum Rock Carvings are a collection of Bronze Age carvings found in the area around the modern town of Tanumshede in Sweden.

With at least 350 distinct groups of rock art comprising of hundreds of individual carvings, Tanum Rock Carvings are one of the most fascinating collections of its type in Europe and as such, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Tanum Rock Carvings history

The carvings date from around 1700 BC and 500 BC and depict scenes from the lives of those who lived in the area during this period, including scenes of ships, hunting and domestic life. During the Scandinavian Bronze and Iron Ages, people were good craftsmen with the ability to travel extensively by water. Many of the carvings show boats carrying around a dozen passengers, while also depicting carts or wagons.

The first records of the images were made in 1627 when a Norwegian doctor made ink drawings of the carving. A number of excavations and recordings continued throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, study focused on the meaning of the drawings, confirming they were from the Bronze Age.

Tanum Rock Carvings today

The Tanum Rock Carvings are spread out over a wide area and within the heritage area there are around 600 rock carvings boasting tens of thousands of images. Within this number, 4 have parking areas, footpaths and information boards: Vitlycke, Aspeberget, Litsleby – adapted for wheelchair users and has a tactile information panel – and Fossum.

A good place to start your exploration is at the Vitlycke Museum, where you can find further information and guides of the rock carvings in the area. The panel at Vitlycke lies 200 metres from the museum and is the most famous carving: the Bridal Couple or ‘Holy Wedding’.

Around the large human figure carved at Litsleby is a wooden walkway, allowing you to see the 2.3 metre-tall ‘Spear God’ in its full splendour. After exploring the numerous carvings, you can stop at Skräddö – a resting place and exhibition that tells you about travelling practices and the landscapes history relating to the prehistoric carvings.

Getting to Tanum Rock Carvings

Open 24 hours a day, from Gothenburg the Tanum Rock Carvings are a 1 hour and 45 minute drive via the E6, and there is plenty of parking at the above-mentioned carving sites.

Vitlycke can also be reached by public transport: from Trollhättan get the train to Västtågen and then the bus 870 to Vitlycke.

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