The main objective of the project is to study Bronze Age rock art as an active and integrated materiality in social relations. Previous research have mainly focused on representation and symbolism of the imagery and neglected aspects of materiality and agency. The project employs a novel theoretical perspective in which rock art is understood as material articulations rather than passive representations of cosmology or ideology. From such a perspective, rock art is considered a fully integrated materiality with a potential to affect the course of events.

This is explored though aspects of visual grammar. By analysing displacements in stylistic variability, alterations, re-cuts, superimpositions, and breaking against praxis, the rock art is given a time depth and a social dimension. The method also facilitates ways to study the agency of the imagery, that is, how they may incite actions. Advanced photogrammetry and three-dimensional analysis will be employed to help identify details in the ways images are produced and how panels of rock art develop over time.

The project focuses on the Bronze Age rock art at the former shoreline of the Mälaren bay in eastern central Sweden, a material not previously studied as a coherent context. By analysing the ways in which the production of, and engagement with, rock art is entangled in social relations, the project will deepen our understanding of the roles of visual culture in a central and formative period in European prehistory.

Funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Project leader: Fredrik Fahlander