Applying cartosemiotics to rock art: an example from Aspeberget, Sweden

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This study aims to shed new light on the petroglyphs found at the site of Aspeberget 12 at the World Heritage site of Tanum, Sweden, from a semiotic perspective. We demonstrate the semiotics of power inherent in the arrangement of the petroglyphs. We start by describing the site in an archaeological way, in order to give an overview of the empirical material used in this case study. Against the backdrop of the overview, we introduce our analytical tools with reference to cartosemiotics, cultural semiotics and, Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory of signs. We suggest, in a tentative conclusion, that Aspeberget 12, as a type of “map”, displays a clear “Ego-culture” and a possible journey. We also suggest that the visual narratives at Aspeberget 12 represent the authority of the Ego-culture and its development. Details of the figurative images such as ships, axes and spears might have been displayed as markers of the high technological standard of the Ego-culture, and thus of power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number4
Early online date2018 Jun 26
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


  • cartosemiotics
  • cultural semiotics
  • Iconicity
  • signs
  • petroglyphs
  • Swedish rock art


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