Storytelling in Rock Art

Project: ResearchInterdisciplinary research, National collaboration

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Archaeology
  • Other Humanities not elsewhere specified


The largest concentration of rock carvings (or petroglyphs) in Europe, created c. 9000 – 1st century BCE, can be found in
Scandinavia, many of them having figurative images. Since the end of the 18th century, research on petroglyphs has
successively become more advanced, both theoretically and methodologically. Numerous interpretations of these images
have been proposed, according to which they may represent e.g. (i) historical events, (ii) magical-religious beliefs and
incantations, (iii) social positions and constellations, and (iv) ritual initiations. Undoubtedly, this extensive pictorial
material constitutes a unique source for research on the use of images in pre-literal societies. Still, we do not know in detail
their purpose and meaning, not least their potential narrative content.
The present interdisciplinary project aims to investigate - theoretically and empirically - the narrative potential of imagemaking
in Scandinavian pre-literal cultures, in order to elaborate means for, and to gain a deeper understanding of, their
general social and communicative significance. This 3 year-project will explore pictorial storytelling during this period with
analytic tools and theories not only from archaeology, but also from narratology and cognitive semiotics. 3D scanning
technology will be used in order to accomplish chronological, sequential analyses of the images. The geographical focus
will be restricted to a comparison of images in Southern and Northern Scandinavia.
Effective start/end date2017/01/012019/12/31

Collaborative partners

  • Lund University
  • Linnaeus University
  • Svenskt HällristningsForskningsArkiv
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø