African Rock Art

African rock art
Just a short post to draw your attention to the British Museum’s African Rock Art image project. Dr A lost a large part of yesterday evening browsing through the images online.

Want to see giant fighting cat-people?

Galloping Camels?

Hair washing ceremonies?

Outstanding rock art?

It’s all there and more…

Many thanks to @ArchivistArch for drawing our attention to the site.

Dr A and Dr H

 

Want to read more? Browse the Prehistories Contents page.

Meetings Make History: Part Two

Our trip began when the school bus turned up. We had to wait until after school was over and the bus had taken the children of Florø home, so our trip began around 4pm. It being near midsummer in Norway, there was still plenty of light to see sites. We drove through the stunning landscape of the Flora district to visit Ausevik.

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The site was excavated in the 1990s by Trond Lødøen, and was one of the first sites where rock art production activities could potentially be linked to the rock art. The site was spectacular, with a number of images of red deer (with characteristic internal decoration), and several complex abstract engravings also. Unfortunately the preservation of the site is bad as the images were carved on slate, which of course laminates really easily and is especially susceptible to frost.

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I love to visit rock art sites, but the site we visited next was even better: the stone quarry at Stakaneset. As we were driving over several people gestured to a large hillside dipping into the other side of the fjord. This was the site of Stakaneset. Stakaneset is important as this is the source for the stone tools used to carved the Ausevik and Vingen images (stone pecking tools made of Stakaneset diabase stone have been excavated from these sites). We approached Stakaneset via a circuitous route, and eventually drew up in a lay-by close to the fjord’s edge. The route to the site involved skirting the edge of the fjord via a narrow ledge. Over we scrambled, and up the hillside. My legs reminded me that I had spent the last month sitting on my backside marking essays: I don’t get enough exercise. After scrambling over rough terrain and through thickets and shrub, to much whistling of the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’, we eventually reached the main attraction.

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Diabase is an igneous rock that extruded into the bedrock in the geological past, the quarry consisted of an immense channel cut into the rock, most of the diabase had been quarried out leaving traces of flake scars, and in some cases evidence of fire setting, on the edges of the channel.

The depth of the quarry channel is neatly illustrated by Chris Fowler in the accompanying photo, the channel towers above him.

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We continued along the channel and followed it down to the edge of the fjord. The beach was amazing as it was composed of diabase flakes, residues of stone knapping. Incredible. it was great to see this site, and to link this location with Ausevik, very close to Stakaneset, and to Vingen. The idea that this specific location had been quarried for material with which to carve rock art locations seems to underline the significance of the rock art images themselves; they are not made casually, they are executed with care, forethought and significance.

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Once we’d scrambled our way back to the bus, it was time to reflect on our visit over a late supper, and to make good use of the long Norwegian days in a drink at the local bar…

Dr A

Meetings Make History: Part One

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At the end of May I visited Florø, western Norway as part of the scientific/steering committee for the ‘Meetings make History’ project run by Ingrid Fuglestvedt at Oslo University. The ‘Meetings make History’ project is based on Ingrid’s analysis and interpretation of the Stone Age rock art of Scandinavia, characterised by animal motifs.

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She argues that the internal patterns on many animal motifs depict totemic relationships: motifs in different regions of Scandinavia are subtly different in form. We were in western Norway to visit one of the most spectacular rock art locations in Scandinavia (and possibly the world): Vingen.

I’ve always wondered whether the phrase ‘Meetings make History’ was meant to have a double meaning, as the project also incorporates occasional gatherings or meetings of archaeologists to discuss the progress of the project. The first day began with a superb set of papers from some of the people associated with the project. Astrid Nyland, a doctoral student on the project, began the day with a wonderful discussion of Stone Age quarry sites in Norway. The aim of the project is to map the relationship between quarry sites and rock art sites.

Following this Fredrik Hållgren gave an inspiring talk looking at the relationship between the hunter-gatherer cultures of northern Scandinavia and the farming cultures of southern Scandinavia, and the exchange of artefacts between them. One of his focuses was the slate knives of the northern cultures. He had done extensive fieldwork to trace their quarry sites, places of manufacture, use and exchange. It was incredible to see what detailed analysis and fieldwork can achieve. I was especially intrigued as I am currently thinking about the manufacture of Neolithic artefacts in NE Scotland.

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The fun was to continue, as the irrepressible Jan Magne Gjerde, post-doctoral researcher on the project, gave a great presentation about encountering rock art at different times of year, by boat, or by skis. Jan Magne is always ‘value for money’ and in this presentation we were treated to a short film of him rowing out to a rock art location in the middle of a Finnish lake. It seems that many rock art sites may have been preferentially visited in winter, by skis, as they were easier to access then.

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The centre piece of the morning was Ingrid’s presentation of her thinking about the project so far. This was quite simply astounding; a virtuoso piece of analysis and interpretation looking at totemic and animic relations in Stone Age art. Much of the rest of the meeting was spent debating this presentation.

Finally, the morning finished with a talk from Trond Lødøen, Bergen Museum, who discussed the sites we were to visit over the next few days. He also presented his new interpretation of Vingen and Ausevik. More on that later.

The first morning got us off to a great start, with lots of food for thought, lots of debate and discussion. Debates and discussion continued on our field trip that took place later that day. I will detail our adventures on the fieldtrip next time…

Dr A