Archaeologists have discovered group of petroglyphs from the late Scandinavian Bronze Age hidden under a thick layer of moss in Bohuslän, southwest Sweden. Forty figures, including 13 ships, nine horses, seven men, and four chariots, cover an area fifty feet wide. This is the largest find of Bronze Age petroglyphs made in this century.
The stone was found in a farm pasture in Quill County. When the figures were carved 2,700 years ago, what is now 40 feet above sea level was on the coastline. The rock was on an island and was partially flooded. The artists must have stood on the boats to carve the artwork just above the waterline. Petroglyphs would be clearly visible on the seascape.
Some of the individual carvings are notable for their large size. One of the ships is 6.5 feet wide; one of the people is over three feet tall. The engravings are deeply carved, revealing white rock in stark contrast to the gray background, long since darkened to charcoal by cyanobacteria in the seawater.
Archaeologists from Bohuslän Rock Art Documentation Foundation noticed a small piece of one of the ships peeping out of the thick moss cover. When they removed the moss, they found many other petroglyphs carved into the almost vertical surface of the stone. This is an unusual alignment; usually the petroglyphs were engraved on flatter slabs that artists could easily climb up and stand on to carve.
This orientation has given archaeologists the ability to date the work with greater accuracy than is normally possible. Since we know what the sea level was like at different periods, the rock paintings could not have been carved until the 8th century BC, when the stone emerged from the sinking waters. If it had been carved after the 7th century, artists would have had to use ladders to get to the rock, and carving in a straight line for several meters on a ladder/platform is prohibitively difficult, if not impossible.
The province of Bohuslän on the rocky coast of southwestern Sweden is made up of over 8,000 islands and islets. Over 1,500 rock art sites have been recorded there, the largest concentration of Bronze Age rock art in Scandinavia, and only a small fraction of the estimated total. Historically, the focus has been on art found on more majestic rocks and outcrops, as documenting all of the rock art was considered an impossible task. The Bohuslän Rock Art Documentation Foundation has been working for more than 20 years to find previously unknown petroglyphs and systematically document them.