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Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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The Rock Art of Alta

The Rock Art of Alta are the largest known collection of rock carvings in Northern Europe made by hunter-gatherers. The first carvings were uncovered in 1973. They are between 6200 and 2000 years old. The Rock Art of Alta were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985.

The Rock Art of Alta. Photo: Arve Kjersheim / Directorate for Cultural Heritage

Varied pictures

What make the rock carvings in Alta so unique is that they are so varied and include so many different figures. At the four uncovered fields there are more than 5000 figures.

The most common pictures are of animals, especially reindeer and moose. But there are other animals such as bear, birds and fish, often there are objects such as fishing nets, spears and boats, as well as people in a variety of activities.

Well preserved

Many of the figures display high artistic quality, and are very well preserved. They were made by people who lived by hunting, gathering and fishing. Most of the figures are relatively small, between 20 and 40 cm high. Some of them are relatively naturalistic; others are more geometric and stylised.

Meeting place

The large collection of rock carvings can indicate that there are additional large, ritually important areas at the head of the Alta fjord. Most likely Alta was a meeting place for people from the coastal and interior areas.

Two meanings

Rock carvings have two meanings, for the first they represent a concrete situation, in the other they have a symbolic meaning and can signalise group identity, religious beliefs, rituals, shamanism, ideology or power.

The Rock Art of Alta at State of the Environment »
The Rock Art of Alta at UNESCO »

Folder: The Rock Art at Alta