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World Heritage Rock carvings in Tanum

The reason Tanum was included on the World Heritage List in 1994 is the large number of rock carvings from the Bronze Age (1700-500 BC) found in the area. The entire region of Bohuslän is rich in rock carvings, with the majority located in the northern part. Tanum has the highest concentration of rock carvings and offers an unusually diverse range of imagery. Within the approximately 41 square kilometre World Heritage Site, there are currently over 600 known rock carving sites, a number that continues to grow as more panels are discovered.

The main panel at the Aspeberget rock carving site. Photo: Hans Lundenmark, Vitlycke museum.

Criteria for World Heritage

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must possess outstanding universal value (OUV) and meet at least one of ten selection criteria. Tanum’s rock carvings fulfil three of these criteria: I, III, and IV.

The first criterion requires the site to be a masterpiece of human creative genius. The third criterion is that it provides unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or a vanished civilization. The fourth criterion pertains to being an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble, or landscape illustrating one or more stages of human history.

The descriptions of the criteria in Tanum are as follows:

Criterion I – The rock carvings of the Tanum region constitute an outstanding example of Bronze Age art of the highest quality.

Criterion III – The range of motifs on the Tanum rock carvings provides exceptional evidence of many aspects of life in the European Bronze Age.

Criterion IV – The continuity of settlement and the ongoing practice of agriculture, as illustrated by the Tanum region’s rock carvings, archaeological vestiges, and modern landscape features, combine to demonstrate a remarkable permanence during eight thousand years of human history.

Outstanding Universal Values

The cultural and/or natural values that justify a site’s inclusion on the World Heritage List are described in a “Statement of Outstanding Universal Values” (SOUV). In addition to the criteria, this document provides a brief summary of the values of the World Heritage Site, as well as descriptions of its authenticity, integrity, and requirements for protection and management efforts.

Under the authenticity section, it is explained how the attributes of the World Heritage Site are genuine. In the case of Tanum, for example, it can be confidently stated that the rock carvings were created during the Bronze Age and remain in the same landscape location.

Integrity measures the degree to which the natural or cultural heritage is considered intact. For instance, the relatively well-preserved state of the rock carvings and the site’s extent, which offers a comprehensive view of the values on which the World Heritage Site is based, contribute to its integrity.

Examples of protection and management efforts include incorporating the values of the World Heritage Site into processes related to new wind power installations, ensuring sustainable tourism, and following established international practices to mitigate weathering of the rock carvings.

Download the Statement of Outstanding Universal Values for the Rock carvings in Tanum World Heritage.

Attributes of the World Heritage Site

Attributes are the value-bearing components that express the outstanding universal values, which are the reasons a site is designated as a World Heritage Site. If OUV describes why the site is a World Heritage Site, then attributes are what needs to be protected and preserved to maintain OUV. Attributes and their interaction are the focal point of protection, preservation, and management.

The attributes of Tanum’s rock carvings World Heritage Site are:

• Rock carvings

• Open cultural landscape

• Other archaeological remains

• Location of settlements within the landscape

• Modern landscape features