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Sailing Rock Art Boats
Abstract and Figures
Amongst the thousands of Bronze Age rock art images that are found along the paleogeographic coast lines of southern Scandinavia the most ubiquitous is the boat. A few are furnished with what look like a mast or sail. These attributes have largely been ignored or explained away as features or objects other than rig because it is widely accepted that the sail was not used in Scandinavia until the 8th century AD. But what if after all they really are depictions of rig? Might this suggest that the sail was not only known but perhaps used here over a 1,000years earlier than previously accepted? Starting from the bases of the images and the environment in which they are found, this paper asks whether vessels of the types we believe belonged to the Scandinavian Bronze Age could have been sailed? These evaluations led to a series of sail trials in a canoe undertaken in the archipelago of the Swedish west coast in the late summer and autumn of 2005. The successful results of these trials were later transferred to the Tilia, a full-scale reconstruction of the Hjortspring boat, a vessel dated to 350 BC but believed to belong to a long-established boatbuilding tradition stretching back into the Bronze Age. This is the report of the hypothesis behind these trials as well as their planning, execution and immediate results. KeywordsBronze age–Rock art–Boat–Sail–Scandinavia–Experimental archaeology
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