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.
As 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.
One 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.
Certain 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.”