Did bronze age people use rock art as a multi-generational Facebook wall?
(Phys.org) -- Large clusters of rock art spanning thousands of years but located at the same site may hold key to detecting massive cultural changes in prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the north.
Updating a virtual wall with details of our lives, and checking it to catch up with others, is part of the daily routine for millions.
But imagine a prehistoric version – with a timeline preserved in actual stone encompassing thousands of years, on which our ancestors used symbolic interpretations of animals and events to communicate with distant tribes and their own descendants – allowing us to trace societal developments in these ancient nomadic communities over the course of generations.
Cambridge archaeologist Mark Sapwell is using the latest technology to analyse the different types, traits and tropes in the thousands of images imprinted on two granite outcrops in the frozen north, where landscapes of early Bronze Age art spanning millennia stretch across areas of rock the size of football pitches.
“These sites are on river networks, and boat is likely how these Bronze Age tribes travelled,” explains Sapwell. “The rock art I’m studying is found near rapids and waterfalls, places where you would have to maybe leave the river and walk around – carrying your animal-skin canoe on your back – natural spots to stop and leave your mark as you journey through, like a kind of artistic tollbooth.”
The two sites that Sapwell is investigating, Zalavruga in Russia and Nämforsen in Northern Sweden, contain around 2,500 images each of animals, people, boats, hunting scenes – even very early centaurs and mermaids. Keep on reading...