TRACKING DOWN PRE-VIKINGS
BRONZE AGE Petroglyphs | TanumSHEDE | WEst Sweden
Nearly two thousand years before Viking legend Ragnar Lothbrok and his progeny prowled the fjords and forests of Scandinavia, ancient civilizations were already making distinct marks defining cultures and religions across this region. Oh sorry, hold up – you don’t know of Ragnar Lothbrok? Don’t watch the HBO series, The Vikings? His story is epic. No? It’s ok. Don’t worry. It isn’t required before visiting the Tanumshede petroglyphs. You’ll learn plenty while on site. And anyway, this is about pre-Viking peeps. We’re going all the way back to the Bronze Age. In Scandinavia. West Sweden to be specific. Västsverige.
BRONZE AGE IN SCANDINAVIA | 1500-500 BCE
Scattered along a 25km stretch of what used to be a fjord, circa 1500 B.C.E., the area around Tanumshede, Sweden is home to the largest concentration of Bronze Age rock carvings in all of Scandinavia. Thousands of images have been chipped into the flat rolling granite stone that is characteristic here. And while you need not seek out all 600 panels in existence, you can prioritize a few and get a little more perspective about the ancient peoples who lived on this land.
PETROGLYPHS = rock carving or drawing
The petroglyphs around Tanum aren’t actually carvings per se. And don’t call them decoration. Although I can definitely see their graphic potential. They are well executed and super interesting. Anthropologists believe that these images were chipped into the stone to be used as a practicable road map of sorts – outlining the religion, rituals, and hierarchy of these ancient societies. Nowadays, we can readily see them in well-marked and easy to find sites, recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Convention since 1994.
TO PAINT OR NOT TO PAINT
Many of the images on the panels have been highlighted in bright red or white paint. And although controversial from a preservation perspective, I will admit the color helps instantly identify the iconic imagery and makes it fun to find. Especially when you are searching for specific shapes sited on the nearby signs; luckily presented in several languages. When looking at those panels that are not painted, the distinctive shapes become decidedly more difficult to discern. I truly believe my children would have been much less interested in the outing without the colored, easy to read pictures.
LITSLEBY – ROCK OF THE SPEAR GOD
We stayed in nearby Fjällbacka and made a half-day trip to check out some of the panels at Litsleby and Aspeberget. Litsleby is famous for its depiction of a Spear god, possibly even Odin, the leader of the Norse Gods. Standing at 2.3 m, this is the largest figural petroglyph in all of Scandinavia. He is impressive. All of him. Is that a spear in your hand or are you just happy to see me? Hello, Odin.
And while the king of Nordic Mythology may have had the largest (you know what) my favorite depictions were of the vessels. (Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much “Vikings.”) But the elegant and easily recognizable ships seemed to sail across the stone. Besides dozens and dozens of ships, we could also point out reindeer and humans and bulls and balls. I’m not being cheeky. It’s true. They’re all there. And it was truly entertaining traipsing around Tanum to find them. Even in winter, when the weather can be windy, we had fun climbing around rocks in the West Sweden hills.
Vitlycke 2, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Interactive experience detailing Bronze Age settlements and artifacts.
Every day May-September 10-18:00 plus Saturday and Sundays starting late March and into early November. Check website for details.
STAY In TanumSHEDE:
Vitlycke 4, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Tel +46(0)525 200 02
Conveniently located across the street from the museum; cabins and plots for rent.
STAY IN FJÄLLBACKA:
Stora Hotellet Bryggan
Ingrid Bergmans Torg
Reception: Galärbacken 2, 457 40 Fjällbacka, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)525-76 50 20
STAY IN Grebbestad:
Tanum Strand Hotel
Tanum V, 457 95 Grebbestad, Sweden
Tel: +46 525 190 00
As a family of five, we prefer the space and flexibility of renting a home or apartment. There are many for rent in this area, start by searching near Fjällbacka and Grebbestad, both adorable outposts with groceries, shops, restaurants and things to do. Never used Airbnb? Click here to get 255Dkk off your first booking. Not in Denmark? Don’t worry – your discount will convert to the correct currency.
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