tanum sweden rock carvings

I almost missed these (roughly) 3,500 year old Bronze Age rock carvings in Tanum, Sweden, despite being only 50 kilometers away, enjoying the serenity of Smogen. Fortunately, I happened to read about their existence on Gary Arndt’s blog in an article he published a few days day before being in the area. Though when I initially pulled up to the first set of carvings I was slightly disappointed. Sitting a few meters from the side of a quiet Swedish road, there was just a small area of flat granite, with depictions of war, the afterlife, love and more. (Or a man using his iPad and a scorpion eating a dog, according to some of your interpretations.)

Interesting, but not on its own something to go out of the way for in rural Sweden…until you drive down the road to see the main show this initial set of carvings acts as a teaser for. Less than 10 minutes away at a leisurely Volvo (or Saab) pace, is a large park of Tanum’s rock carvings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The wide granite canvases left behind as Ice Age glaciers gradually melted north during a time of immense change for humans in this part of the world. Agriculture was ending nomadic lifestyles and our species was learning to manipulate cooper and bronze to create new tools.

The Bronze Age is also the era anthropologists believe human cultures began to develop writing for the first time. You can almost see that happening among large and complex pictographs like these in Tanum, regularly painted red by nearby museum staff to make them easily visible. (You’re no the only one who was wondering where those ancient Swedes found paint that doesn’t dull over time.) Fortunately for us, their story hasn’t either.

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Entry into the nearby Tanum Museum Of Rock Carvings is free, as is access to all of the Tanum rock carving sites, a 90 minute drive from Gothenburg and 2 hours and 15 minutes from Oslo by car.