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Rock Carvings at Alta, Norway

The Rock carvings at Alta (Helleristningene i Alta) are part of an archaeological site near the town of Alta in the county of Finnmark in northern Norway. Since the first carvings – or more correctly, the petroglyphs – were discovered in 1972, more than 5000 carvings have been found on several sites around Alta. The main site, located at Jiepmaluokta about 4 kilometers outside of Alta, contains around 3000 individual carvings and has been turned into an open-air museum. The site was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites on 3 December 1985. It is Norway’s only prehistoric World Heritage Site.

The earliest carvings in the area date to around 4200 BC; the most recent carvings are generally dated to around 500 BC, although some researchers believe carving continued until around 500 AD. The wide variety of imagery shows a culture of hunter-gatherers that was able to control herds of reindeer, was adept at boat building and fishing and practiced shamanistic rituals involving bear worship and other venerated animals. Apart from the visual evidence of the carvings themselves, not much is known about the culture that produced these carvings, although it has been speculated that the carvers might have been descendants of the Komsa culture. Some researchers also hold the belief that the Sami people are descendants of the carvers.

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