World Heritage Rock Art Centre - Alta Museum

Scientific Discovery of Alta’s Rock Art

This first occurred 60 years ago. The small stone known as Pippisteinen - The Pippi-stone - which was found close to Isnestoften on the westside of the Altafjord.
Rock Art Alta Norway
Following this in 1966 the rock paintings in Transfarelv were discovered and reported to Tromsø Museum. Several further rock carving areas were discovered in the Altafjord during the 1970’s. All of the four rock carving areas on the World Heritage List were discovered during this decade - 1973, 1977 and 1978. Within the World Heritage Areas several more panels and carvings have been discovered since then, and continue to do so today.
Humans elkhead staffs Bergbukten Rock Art Alta Norway
Humans with elkhead staffs at Bergbukten
Bears den Kåfjord Rock Art Alta Norway
Bears den at Kåfjord

Dating & Chronology

Rock Art Alta Norway
It is believed that the rock carvings in Alta were made close to the sea, on rocks by the shore. As the land rose with the end of the Ice Age and new, smooth rocks appeared, these were in turn used for carvings. The oldest panels are therefore high above the modern sea level, while the younger carvings are located lower down nearer the sea level. It is unclear whether the rock paintings had the same close attachment to the sea and the beach. Based on the meters above sea level Professor Emeritus Knut Helskog at Tromsø University Museum dated the rock carvings in Alta to the period from around 4200 B.C. to 200 A.D. Within this period of time the rock carvings are divided into five distinct phases based on stylistic changes:
Professor Knut Helskog at Tromsø University Museum Dating
Phase 1: 5000 - 4800 B.C.
Phase 2: 4800 - 4000 B.C.
Phase 3: 4000 - 2700 B.C. 
Phase 4: 2700 - 1700 B.C.
Phase 5: 1700 - 500 B.C.
Phase 6: 500 B.C. - 100 A.D.
However, archaeologist Jan Magne Gjerde suggests that the rock carvings in Alta are older than this:
Archaeologist Jan Magne Gjerde Dating
Phase 1: 5200 - 4200 B.C.
Phase 2: 4200 - 3000 B.C.
Phase 3: 3000 - 2000 B.C.
Phase 4: 1700 - 1200 B.C.
Phase 5: 1100 - 200 B.C.
Hunting skier Apana Gård 12 Rock Art Alta Norway
Hunting skier at Apana Gård
Reindeer Bergbukten Rock Art Alta Norway
Reindeer at Bergbukten
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All photographs, unless specified otherwise, are taken by 'Karin Tansem, VAM'.
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