The rock carvings at Vitlycke

The most frequently visited of the rock art sites in the Tanum World Heritage area is the Vitlycke panel, which lies 200 m from the museum. Here you will find among other things Bohuslän’s most famous carving – the Bridal Couple also called the Holy wedding.

The panel consists of some 500 different images dating from all parts of the period when rock carvings were made in Bohuslän, from 1700 B.C. to 300 B.C. As well as the big carved rock there are four smaller panels, linked by a path roughly 500 m long. At the top of the hill above the Vitlycke panel there are two burial cairns from Early Bronze Age with a magnificent view across the Tanum plain and the World Heritage area.

The Bridal Couple scene

The best known of the images at Vitlycke is the Bridal Couple showing a man and a woman standing close together and accompanied by another man with a raised axe to the left of the pair. Perhaps this is a picture of a ritual prehistoric wedding that perhaps took place every year to bring good harvests and healthy livestock. The man with the axe on the left could then be a leader of the ritual who conducts the ceremony and blesses the couple with his axe.

A journey to the kingdom of the dead?

Women are not particularly numerous on our rock carvings but at Vitlycke we have two: as well as one half of the Bridal Couple, there is in the middle of the panel a representation of a woman in a squatting position. To the left of the woman lies a man, who may be dead. The man’s legs reach into a carving of a boat. Perhaps what we see here is a description of the voyage to the kingdom of the dead and the woman could be preparing the corpse for its journey. The idea of crossing the water features in many prehistoric religions, Greek mythology being a good example where the deceased are ferried across the River Styx to reach the kingdom of the dead.

Boundary of cupmarks

The right side of the panels is divided by a row of 70 cupmarks. Beside the row stand three warriors, one on the left and two on the right. They are armed with swords, axes and shields. Perhaps the row is a boundary and what we see is a dispute about the drawing of this boundary. Elsewhere cupmarks can be seen spread across the surface of the panel, some of them apparently scattered at random, others forming a part of figures, e.g. as cargo in ships, between the legs of people or beneath the tails of bulls.

Updated: 2017-01-17 14:50