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Conservation and land management

The rock carvings in the Tanum area are at the core of the values that underlie the designation as a World Heritage site. Various efforts, all aimed at ensuring the long-term preservation of the carvings, are therefore an important part of the management work. However, continuous maintenance measures are only carried out at the prepared visitor locations. At these sites, recurring actions take place from spring to autumn, on both the panels and the surrounding areas, to allow visitors to see and experience the carved motifs and also to slow down the ongoing weathering of the rock surface, which can be accelerated by the growth of certain lichens and algae.

Participants in the World Heritage Volunteer Initiative cleaning a rock carving at Aspeberget. Photo: Hans Lundenmark, Vitlycke Museum.

The simplest method to remove biological growth is to cover the rock carving with a non-light-permeable tarpaulin for a couple of years and to divert water away from the rock surface. To prevent growth and reduce the risk of frost damage and further deterioration, seasonal covering of a small number of panels is carried out. Treating the rock with a 60-70% ethanol solution can help accelerate the disappearance of biological growth.

Learn more about weathering.

Land management

The surrounding areas near the visitor locations, as well as the paths leading to them, also require maintenance measures, such as mowing grass, clearing brush and shrubs, and raking leaves that might otherwise end up on top of the carved images. It is also important to take measures to divert water that trickles over the rock carvings and seeps into small cracks, which can lead to frost damage when the temperature drops below freezing. A simple way to divert water is by using narrow rubber bags filled with sand placed above the rock carving panels


Painting on the rock carvings is not part of the maintenance work – although it is sometimes mistakenly stated – but rather something that the authority permits exceptionally to make the carvings easier for visitors to see. However, painting does not contribute to the better preservation of the stone material and the carvings themselves. On the contrary, it can lead to weathering. The County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland is therefore very restrictive with painting, and in principle, only previously painted carvings may be considered for touch-ups.

Learn more about painting of rock carvings.

Who is responsible?

The responsibility for care and maintenance measures in the World Heritage site is shared among the three parties of the Management Council. The County Administrative Board plans the overall interventions and leads certain actions while procuring necessary contractors when needed. Tanum Municipality carries out the majority of the seasonal maintenance at the prepared visitor sites, except for the area at Vitlycke where the annual care is conducted by the Vitlycke Museum.