Hasn’t mankind always had a desire to tell a story? To tell their story?

The thought struck me as early one Friday morning during Easter as my son and I visited Vitlycke Rock Carvings in Sweden. It’s not often you have a World Heritage Site all to yourselves and in quiet reverence we strolled amongst the 4,000-year-old rock carvings.

100_7892As if bleary from sleep, the sun hung low in the sky, its light dancing between the trees, the dew on the grass shimmering in sparkles of delight. Slowly we approached the biggest rock panel which alone bears over 500 images.

The creative force of the images struck me first. They were full of passion; with brute strength telling the story of their lives. Of gods, hunting, fishing, ships. Of people and animals. Of men and women. Of war and battle. The artistic images rendered vibrant and more visible by the red coloured paint.

In the silence, we felt we had stumbled upon a sacred site, the atmosphere spiritually ladened. The vivacious animated figures were ready for action and seemingly about to leave their two-dimensional existence and enter the realm of 3-D.  I imagined a flotilla of boats sailing away across the seas.

On my first visit many years ago the ship images had bemused me as from the hill the sea was not visible, being miles away. However, a plaque quickly explained that in the Bronze Age the water level was 15 m higher. Below us, where the car was parked, where the visitors centre was built, would all have been under water.

100_7894One particular image of a man is over 2 m long and is the largest petroglyph in the area. Is it a portrait of a local chieftain I wondered? I read the plaque which states this is an image of the god Odin.

With determination and care the people of the Bronze Age wanted to leave their mark – literally! They wanted to leave us their story for future generations. These petroglyphs are a testament to their success, to the power of their story.
100_7905Certain images are still enigmas, argued over by university scholars and school pupils. That is the joy of them as well. What is the meaning of the 30,000 or so ‘cup’ marks visible across the county? One set here has a line of them, reaching down and then ceasing in a circle of ‘cup’ marks. Is it fertility symbols, as declared by scholars? Or at times I like to imagine a group of children, not yet capable of drawing the more detailed images, ‘doodling’ on the rocks.

The magical mystical morning ends with a quiet picnic of contemplation overlooking some of the rock carvings. The people from the Bronze Age beat their story into solid granite, stories which survived four millenniums. Will our forms of story telling live on into eternity?

Wishing you all a lovely day; may the sun shine brightly and breeze blow gently.

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Philip Pullman


11 thoughts on “THE 4,000 YEAR-OLD STORY

    1. So glad you came over to look at the post and I agree the mystery of them is part of the delight … it is quite funny at times how the scholars try to find various, often conflicting, explanations. The red pigment is added in modern days to show them off better … there is a belief that they would have some colour at the time or even left and the white of the rock would have highlighted the the images.

  1. Wow! I love these historical sites so much! Full of mystery and enigma! These ancestral pictures tell us how humbly and naively we began to record our experiences so that others get to know about it. The desire to share stories is quite compelling in us. I wonder if we can fully comprehend you said it looked like children making doodles 😀 I never feel satisfied with what the historians say. Only if there was a time machine to revisit the bygone era.. and discover for real what was in the mind of our ancestors.. 🙂

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your terrific comment! 😀 I’ve visited this site on many occasions and never fail to be intrigued by the carvings. As you say it is fascinating on so many levels, their compelling need to tell a story, their story we assume…a need which has followed man eve for since! Oh, I agree I always wonder what they were thinking when creating them, whether it was the work of one person, or of many various ones, whether created in a solitary situation or whether surrounded by others, chatting casually away. Now, where is that time machine?! 😀😀

  2. Mike

    What great photos, and a very interesting blog. Humans have always wanted to leave their mark and this seems up there with the best. It creates the link between us and them – not much difference between us as living beings, but how technology has developed.

    Also makes you think – will people 4,000 years hence be able to make any sense of all our digital information? That’s assuming they can access it in the first place. After all, communication is all about making yourself understood.


    1. It was difficult choosing which photos to use as I have dozens from that one day alone. Mankind have always wanted to leave a legacy for the next generation, but it’s amazing to think this has survived four thousand years! How true about communication being about making yourself understood. Too often that does not happen today – they succeeded outstandingly!

  3. Peter R

    Beautifully written, Annika. Your story captures the deep spirit of the place. I’m sure the original carvers had no idea their work would survive so long. I wonder what they would make of the modern world if they came back? Our modern method of recording history, and storytelling probably won’t last as long (will the human race?), and the same applies to our buildings.

    1. Thank you Peter. I am glad I could convey the magic of that day to you all. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could travel back in time and see what the creators were thinking? Did they ever consider the long-term future?

  4. So happy to share this Mirja. It was a magical experience and to be the only ones there quite unexpected. I did think of all our modern digitally stored information, which becomes obsolete in decades. Scary thought. Great idea about sending this to the Visitor’s Centre – I’ll do that! Thanks.

  5. Mirja

    Thank you Annika for letting us all share this magical
    morning. To experience such a place together with your son
    and no other noises than that of nature. Just perfect.
    As is your rendition of Vitlycke and what the people achieved 4000 years ago.

    I have been there in summer when tourists from all parts of the world mingled.
    Even then the magic was there and the visitors were hushed. Talking in soft
    I do think you should consider sending this to Vitlycke visiting centre for use
    in the booklets.

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