What's the coolest thing you've discovered on a hike? An interesting plant, a pretty rock, or maybe something left behind by another hiker? For one Norwegian dad, a family hike turned into a thrilling discovery. As announced by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), an unassuming rock found outside of Oslo is actually covered in ancient Bronze Age rock paintings featuring rowers and standing figures. This pigment has survived thousands of years, and it expands researchers’ knowledge of the range of such prehistoric art.
Tormod Fjeld, a graphic designer by trade who hunts petroglyphs in his free time, took his family for a hike in the Norwegian woods outside Oslo. The family paused for cookies and juice by a large rock. Looking at the boulder with his practiced eye, Fjeld noticed strange colors. He used an app on his phone to process a photograph of the rock. Pigments are colored by the app, which often indicates if they are naturally occurring or were added by human hands. In this case, humans and animals became clearly visible. “I took a picture and went into the app,” Fjeld told NIKU. “I had something like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t really think it could be anything.”
He immediately contacted a friend of his who is an archeologist. Eventually the NIKU examined the rock, declaring it to be the first of its kind in the region of Østfold and Viken. The paintings—which show human rowers, standing humans, and animals—are sheltered by a rock protrusion which protects them from the elements. For now, their location remains secret to protect them. “They are extremely hard to find due to the faintness of the paint,” Jan Magne Gjerde of NIKU told Artnet News. “Not many people have been looking for them, which is why not many have been found, though we are sure there are more paintings.”
The paintings are thought to be Bronze Age, although they may be more recent from the Iron Age. This former period lasted from about 3300 BCE to 1200 BCE, and the latter period ranged from 1200 BCE to 600 BCE.
These pictographs are significantly more modern than some examples, which can be 30,000 years or older. One famous example can be found in the Altamira cave in Spain. While it may be unknown at present why the Norwegian rock is bedecked in figures, surely it was a deliberate and imposing work of art in its day.
A Norwegian dad hiking with his family spotted what looked like paint on a rock. He wound up discovering a whole series of ancient Bronze Age paintings of rowers and standing figures.
This find is a first for the region.
h/t: [Artnet News]