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Alta Rock Carvings

Photo © nuakin. View all images in our Alta Rock Carvings Photo Gallery.
Photo © Davide Abrigo.
Photo © Ingunn Kjøl Wiig.
Photo © Ingunn Kjøl Wiig.
Photo © Ingunn Kjøl Wiig.
Photo © GFDL.
Photo © Jurek Durczak.
Photo © Nik.
Photo © GFDL.

Located in the far north of Norway near the Arctic Circle, the Alta Rock Carvings are an extensive and important collection of petroglyphs dating from 4200 to 500 BC. First discovered in 1967, the 5,000+ rock carvings were designated a World Heritage Site in 1985. According to UNESCO, the Alta petroglyphs are "the most important piece of evidence in favor of the existence of human activity in the confines of the Great North in the prehistoric period."

History

The rock art at Alta has been dated to about 4200 to 500 BC, incorporating four main phases of work. The carvings and paintings were made on the rocks along the fjord as the glaciers from the Ice Age receded; therefore the artworks found highest on the rocks are the oldest, while the petroglyphs closest to present sea level are the newest. There is a difference of about 26 meters between the two extremes.

The modern history of the Alta carvings began in 1967, when they were first discovered and studied. They were designated a World Heritage Site in 1985. Alta Museum opened in June 1991 and won the European Museum of the Year Award in 1993. 

What to See

The petroglyphs (rock art) at Alta consist of over 5,000 paintings and carvings scattered over 45 sites. The main site, which is now the open-air Alta Museum, contains about 3,000 petroglyps. The paintings have been retouched in bright red paint by researchers, but are otherwise entirely original.

The main site of the petroglyphs are part of an open-air museum called Alta Museum, which also includes an excellent indoor exhibition covering both the rock art and the general prehistoric history of the region.

From the museum, visitors follow a well-marked path and boardwalk that leads down a gently sloping hill to the fjord then loops around the site. Along the path are 13 stopping points for viewing the rock art up close. A typical self-guided tour lasts about an hour; guided tours are available in summer.

The petroglyphs are highly stylized and depict a wide range of subjects, including: geometrical symbols; animals such as bears, moose, and reindeer; and human activities such as hunting, fishing, navigation, and rituals. Agricultural activities, with domesticated animals inside fences, appear among the newest petroglyphs (approaching 500 BC).

Getting There

Alta has a local airport and is located on the E6, a major highway. You can take a long-distance bus to Alta Sentrum, from where it is 4.5km back along the E6 to the rock carvings. To shorten the walk, get off at the bus station at Alta Sentrum and take a local bus to Bossekop, from where it is a 2.5km walk. Another option is a taxi: call Alta Taxi at 78 43 53 53.


Quick Facts on the Alta Rock Carvings

Site Information
Names:Alta Rock Art; Alta Rock Carvings; Helleristningene i Hjemmeluft
State:North Norway
Country:Norway
Categories:Rock Art
Faiths:Prehistoric
Feat:Petroglyphs
Styles:Bronze Age
Dates:c. 4200-500 BCE
Status:museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Norway
Coordinates:69.946944° N, 23.187778° E  (view on Google Maps)
Website:www.alta.museum.no
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of the Alta Rock Carvings

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Alta Rock Carvings. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Rock Art of Alta - UNESCO World Heritage List
  2. Alta - Rough Guide to Scandinavia
  3. Alta Museum - official website
  4. Rock carvings at Alta - Wikipedia

More Information

Article Info

Title:Alta Rock Carvings
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/25/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/alta-rock-carvings/norway/alta-rock-carvings
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