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The Tanum World Heritage - a  prehistoric treasure

Hand touching a rock art boat.

All over the world people have carved and painted on rocks and in caves. Here at Tanum people from the Bronze Age have carved thousands of images into the smooth rocks of the landscape. This pictorial treasure is so rich in content and so distinctive that it is among the world’s cultural heritages on the Unesco World Heritage List.

The rock-carving area at Tanum was included in the World Heritage List in 1994, as the fifth Swedish contribution. This is the World Heritage Committee’s citation:

The rock carvings in the Tanum area are a unique example of Bronze Age art of the highest quality. The range of motifs provides rare evidence of many aspects of life in the European Bronze Age. The interplay of continuous settlement and land use, as reflected in the rock carvings, the burial grounds and the landscape, make the Tanum area an outstanding example of uninterrupted settlement for eight thousand years.


Tanum’s rock carvings have been considered of national interest for a long time and been an important part of the cultural history of the Tanum area and Bohuslän as a whole. But with the admission of the 45 sq. km. area around the Tanum plain to the Unesco World Heritage list the area is seen not only as of value to us in Bohuslän and in Sweden but also to us as world citizens and as human beings. Tanum has become a matter for the whole international community.

Within the World Heritage area there are approximately 600 rock-carving sites, together containing tens of thousands of images. Four of the sites are provided with parking facilities, footpaths and information boards: Vitlycke, Aspeberget, Litsleby and Fossum. Litsleby is also adapted for wheelchair users and has a tactile information panel.

A map of the World Heritage Area can be downloaded as i pdf-file (1 Mb).

The Vitlycke carving

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 carvings at Fossum

This rock carving is very compact, the limited area of rock being packed with images. Here the Fossum woman rubs shoulders with warriors, musicians and dancers with hunters, deer with dogs.

The carvings at Litsleby

The size of the human figure that you can find at Litsleby is very rare. The 2,3 meter tall man is called the Spear God. Perhaps we are looking at an early Odin, or Tyr, on this panel.

The rock carving area of Aspeberget

The carvings at Aspeberget, 700 metres to the south of Vitlycke Museum, include images of bulls, warriors and ships. There is also a walking trail on the hill with a number of additional carving sites.

World Heritage walks

This is a 6 km path that takes you to three different places with exciting rock carvings: Lövåsen with its shaman, the Gerum panel with the flying swing and Sotetorp with ships full of people doing backward somersaults.

Skräddö - a gateway to the Tanum World Heritage

Skräddö is a combination of a resting stop, a World Heritage exhibition and a time machine. Here you can learn about the history of the landscape in relation to the rock carvings, travelling practices then and now, and not least the idea behind the World Heritage sites worldwide.

Updated: 2024-02-05 11:23