UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)
UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

From the World Heritage inscription:

The range of motifs, techniques and compositions on the Tanum rock carvings provide exceptional evidence of many aspects of life in the European Bronze Age. The continuity of settlement and consistency in land use in the Tanum area, as illustrated by the rock art, the archaeological remains, and the features of the modern landscape in the Tanum region combine to make this a remarkable example of continuity over eight millennia of human history.

Northern Bohuslän is a land of granite bedrock, parts of which were scraped clean as the ice cap slowly moved northwards, leaving gently curved rock faces exposed, many of them bearing deep scratches made by rocks caught in the receding ice. These were the ‘canvases’ selected by the Bronze Age artists, all of them just above the shoreline of the period that began in 1500 BC, i.e. 25-29 m above today’s sea level.

This rock art is unique by comparison with that in rock-art areas in other parts of Scandinavia, Europe, and the world in its outstanding artistic qualities and its varied and vivid scenic compositions of Bronze Age man. The often lively scenes and complex compositions of elaborate motifs illustrate everyday life, warfare, cult, and religion. Some of the panels were obviously planned in advance.

Archeology sites are often some of the most difficult world heritage sites to visit because there usually isn’t much to see. My previous visits to Ban Chiang in Thailand and the Sangiran Early Man Site in Indonesia left me very underwhelmed. Absent taking part in a dig (which you can’t do) there isn’t much to experience, regardless how important the sites might be. I didn’t even know what I should take a photo of at those locations.

What is nice about Tanum is that the rock carvings are easily accessible. There are several carvings which are easy walking distance from the road. Also, many of the primary sites have the carvings highlighted with a iron based paint to make them stand out in the daylight.

In addition to the rock carvings, there is a nice museum and visitor’s center as well as an historic village that approximates what bronze age life in Scandinavia was like.

Tanum is located about 90 minutes north of Gothenburg just minutes off the E6 highway.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.