Scientists Confirm Long-Distance Sailing Approximately 10,000 Years Ago

Around 10,000 years ago, early people were already capable of long-distance Maritime Voyages.

According to newly discovered motifs in rock art in Sweden, archeologists argue they’ve successfully confirmed theories suggesting that ancient cultures were capable of long-distance sailing during the Stone Age around 10,000 years ago.

According to a recent report from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden’s best-preserved rock art was dated and studied with the air of new, state-of-the-art technologies that have revealed a number of previously unknown motifs, most of which are no longer visible to the naked eye. The ancient illustrations carved on rock are located on the Hisingen Island, just outside Gothenburg.

The most significant motif discoveries are those of boars with elk-head stems, a depiction of boats that was previously unseen in southern or Western Scandinavia. Depictions of similar motifs have only been found before in Finland, Russia, northeastern Norway, and northern Sweden.

“These findings confirmed my theories of seafaring in the Stone Age,” says Bettina Schulz Paulsson om a statement.

An image showing the results of the state-of-the-art scanning techniques. Image Credit: Johan Wingborg /University of Gothenburg.
An image showing the results of state-of-the-art scanning techniques. Image Credit: Johan Wingborg /University of Gothenburg.

The new technologies used to study the Tumlehed rock art paintings included the Dstretch digital image enhancement system which was originally developed by NASA and is increasingly being used in rock art research. It was used to digitally improve symbols that are no longer visible to the naked eye.

These motifs, say archaeologists, provide conclusive evidence of long-distance sea voyages that took place during the Stone Age by early maritime hunters.

Furthermore, with the aid of portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) spectroscopy, the scientists were able to study and determine the chemical composition of the pigment used in the motif. The results revealed that the ancient painters had used different batches of paint, a fact indicative of at least two completely different episodes when the rock art was made.

But in addition to the plethora of data that was revealed during the study, the most significant is the discovery of previously “hidden” motifs depicting what seems to be boas with elk-head stems.

The researchers explained that these types of boats are associated with hunting scenes.

“Elk-head boats are often associated with hunting and fishing scenes, and we have interpreted the motifs in Tumlehed as three elk-head boats related to a small whale, a seal, and four fish,” explained Schulz Paulsson.

The recently study of the Tumlehed tock paintings suggests that long-distance maritime voyages during the stone age took place and are culturally connected to different cultures and people spanning from eastern and northern Fennoscandia; a geographical area covering Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Pennusa as well as Russian Karelia.

“Deer, reindeer, and elk are frequently depicted motifs in Fennoscandian rock art. These species were an important game for hunting but may also have had important symbolic and spiritual roles for these societies,” explained Schulz Paulsson.

The discovery is indicative that early people across the world where far more sophisticated and developed than what we’ve known until now.

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