Meetings Make History. Hunters’ Rock Art and Lands of identity in Mesolithic Northern Europe. (completed)

Hunters’ rock art of Mesolithic and Early Neolithic age on the Scandinavian peninsula are the primary source material of this project. The study was accompanied with investigations of quarries and raw material use. Presentation in Norwegian.

Many raindeer in red on grey stone.

Bergbukten panel at Hjemmeluft, Alta, Norway.

Photo: Ingrid Fuglestvedt.

About the project

Meetings Make History aimed at making rock art a useful source material for investigations of the historical dynamics of Mesolithic northern Europe. An effort was made to make rock art the basis for studying developments in the ideology and sociology of Mesolithic societies through approaches connected to the concepts of animism and totemic. A methodology is modeled to discern animic and totemism figural elements. 

Animism and totemism are regarded two main types of hunter-gatherer world views that are not mutually exclusive; however, specific contexts may be said to be dominated by either one. On a general basis the Early Mesolithic on the Scandinavian peninsula is dominated by an animic world view, whereas the Late Mesolithic southern and northern Norway, clearly was dominated by totemism. Simultaneously, Sweden, especially with reference to the Nämforsen rock art site, seems to be dominated by animism. In the beginning of the Neolithic / Younger Stone Age, the rock art of northernmost Norway depicts a pure animic expression, and thus seems to be “back” within a word view dominated by animism.  

Differences in rock art styles between regions are seen to express local origins and local belonging of the meetings groups. Still, figural compositions appearing at rock art sites throughout the entire investigation area express some common “pan-nordic” beliefs that get their local expression. However, a few discernible figural elements – investigated as social markers – habitually appears in small numbers at rock art sites far away from their area of origin. Thus, a core issue of the project is to approach rock art and rock art sites such like Vingen, western Norway, Alta, northern Norway and Nämforsen northern Sweden, as venues of great meetings between groups of different social belonging and landscapes. The social developments triggered by meetings, gift exchange, marriage and alliance are investigated as integral parts of the interregional and social / ideological developments during the Mesolithic.


An overall objective of Meetings Make History was to compile and update datings of rock art sites and “align” the until now “local chronologies” into a common chronology for the entire investigation area. It is believed that only this way, rock art and rock art sites may serve as an improved empirical material for studying the cultural history of the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic on the Scandinavian peninsula.

Organization and financing

The project included project director, a post doctoral fellow and a PhD-scholarship holder. The three scholars involved had funding for three years of investigation. The project was funded by the Norwegian Research Council and by the Department of Archaeology, History and Conservation. 

Research Council

Meetings Make History had no formal partners of cooperation, but was backed by a research council of about 15 scholars from Norway, Scandinavia, Britain and the USA. The research council served as a forum for discussions on topics, aims and accomplishments made by the three scholars involved. This resource group met up 1-2 times per year.

Published June 25, 2012 11:10 AM - Last modified Apr. 13, 2020 10:16 AM


Detailed list of participants