Horns as Symbols in Bronze Age Scandinavian Southern Tradition Rock Art

Animal Iconography in the Archaeological Record - New Approaches, New Dimensions

Joanna M. Lawrence [+-]
PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge
Joanna Lawrence, archaeologist, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation examines conceptualisations of non-human animals through the lens of Southern Tradition Scandinavian rock art, implications for relationships between humans and animals, and the role of rock art in negotiating ontology.

Description

The corpus of Scandinavian Southern Tradition rock art from the Bronze Age (1800-500 cal BC) incorporates the curved shape of ox horns in multiple modes. In addition to being the defining feature of the depictions of the animals themselves, in the carvings the horns appear clearly on the heads (presumably helmets) of some anthropomorphs, transposed onto the shape of the keels of ships from certain periods (Ling & Rowlands 2015), and also, as I will argue, in the depictions of anthropomorphs performing the ‘adorant’ or raised-arm gesture. In this chapter, I explore potential meanings for the ox-horn shape as a symbol through a quantitative exploration of its appearances in a sample of 84 panels from the province of Bohuslän, Sweden. My approach follows a semiotic perspective on this rock art, in which each element of the carvings is understood to carry meaning in relation to those situated within its shared visual ontology. I consider the ways in which the various forms interact with each other, and how they pattern in relationship to other features in the rock art. Through this, we discover whether understanding how the horn symbol is deployed in the rock art can help us understand its meaning, and what the symbolic use of an animal feature might reveal about the nature of human-animal relationships and the cultural concept of cattle in the Scandinavian Bronze Age.

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Citation

Lawrence, Joanna M.. Horns as Symbols in Bronze Age Scandinavian Southern Tradition Rock Art. Animal Iconography in the Archaeological Record - New Approaches, New Dimensions. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Feb 2021. ISBN 9781781799260. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=38885. Date accessed: 08 Aug 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38885. Feb 2021

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