Wed. Nov 13th, 2019

The Stone Age sailors who traveled 2,000 kilometers to go whaling


Tumlehed is the rock painting rather preserved and complex of the southwest coast of Sweden. Originally discovered in 1974 on the island of Hisingen, located just 15 kilometers from the center of Gothenburg, is one of the few found in the western part of the country. It was made with red ocher between 4200 and 2500 BC, at the end of the Stone age.

Located on a steep cliff, the artistic representation covers about two meters high by two meters wide and shows a series of figures, including four ships, four fish, a large deer, undulating patterns and some indeterminate forms. The new technologies, however, have revealed a number of reasons unknown until now because they are not visible to the naked eye, according to a study published in the Oxford Journal of Archeology
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Rock art

The painting is on a steep cliff on the island of Hisingen, just 15 kilometers from the center of Gothenburg

The most important of these newly discovered motifs are the moose-headed stems. This is the first time that these types of boats have been documented in the south or west of Scandinavia and provide evidence of long-distance sea voyages made by the Stone Age hunters.

“These societies moved long distances with their boats to reach the seasonal hunting grounds. They were not expeditions of local people as previously thought, ”he explains to The vanguard the archeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson, researcher of the Gothenburg University.

The Dstretch tool allows to improve digitally the symbols of rock art that are no longer visible to the naked eye

The Dstretch tool allows to improve digitally the symbols of rock art that are no longer visible to the naked eye
(Bettina Schulz Paulsson)




The archeology students of this university have been doing excursions for years to visit the suburb of Torslanda and to observe Tumlehed's painting. It was on one of those visits when Schulz Paulsson decided to try the methods he wanted to use for a project he planned the origins of the megalithic tombs and how they spread throughout Europe.





"I found them (the new reasons) by chance, it was just a test of the methods I planned to use for my latest project on megalithic art at a nearby site and we obtained spectacular results," recalls the expert. The new data provides a better basis for identifying the organization of the panel, the chronological sequence and the different periods in which it was performed.


Surprising discovery

Boats with elk head stems had only been found in Finland, Russia, Norway and northern Sweden

The most surprising of the details discovered were the ships with elk head stems, motifs that had previously only been found in Finland, Russia, northeastern Norway and northern Sweden. "The closest findings are between 1,500 and 2,000 kilometers along the coast," the archaeologist tells The vanguard.

"These societies were coming for seasonal hunting because the Bohüslan archipelago was rich in marine fauna (whales and seals) at that time as a result of the western streams bringing plankton," he adds. Archaeologists have interpreted that three moose-headed ships are related to a small whale, a seal and four fish also represented.





The image obtained with the new technologies has allowed to see the ships with elk head stems

The image obtained with the new technologies has allowed to see the ships with elk head stems
(Bettina Schulz Paulsson)




Chemical analysis of the pigment also suggests that the painting was done in at least two separate episodes. The new technologies used include the Dstretch image enhancement program, originally developed by NASA and is increasingly used in rock art research to digitally improve symbols that are no longer visible to the naked eye.

Tumlehed's cave painting indicates similar sea voyages during the Stone Age that are culturally connected to the eastern and northern villages of Fennoscandia, an area that covers Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula and Russian Karelia. “Deer, reindeer and elk are motifs frequently represented in Phenoescandian rock art. These species were important for hunting, but they may also have had symbolic and spiritual roles for these societies, ”the researchers conclude.







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