Leirfall Figure Interpretation 1

The original petroglyphs at Leirfall in Hegra, Stjørdal. (Source: NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet archives)

Leirfall is a site with petroglyphs in Stjørdal, Trøndelag, dated to the Nordic Bronze Age (1800 BCE -500 BCE). There are a number of interesting figures at Leirfall, and I’ve started drawing some of them to explore possible interpretations.

The Figure To The Left

The silhouette of the original petroglyph next to my rendering of it as a bird-man penetrated by a sword.

The first drawing here is based on the large humanoid figure to the left in the above photograph. Like many of the humanoid figures at Leirfall, the headshape is not quite that of a human. Possibly representing a human wearing a mask, or a human-animal hybrid.

I rendered the silhouette of the figure as a bird. Like the other nearby petroglyph figures, this one has no arms, which is quite odd. But it also isn’t unique in petroglyphs, and sometimes it seems that the arms and legs are either emphasized to convey different messages in the petroglyphs.

My drawing of the petroglyph as a bird humanoid.

There is something sticking out of the front and back of the body, and I have drawn this as the figure being penetrated by a sword. A figure penetrated by a sword could represent a sacrifice. I think it is likely that, at least the back part, represents a sword. But it could also just be a sword in a scabbard hanging from a belt, and the hilt sticking out in front. Then the figure could represent a guard or warrior, since the other figures seem unarmed. The part in the front could also be a penis, as there are a lot of petroglyph figures with clear representation of penises. And, as the head already looks like a bird, the part in the back could be a bird tail.

The figure is larger than figures behind it, which may signify that it represents a leader or a form of god.

Humanoid petroglyphs with bird-like features are not unqiue to Leirfall, and another example is seen in the image below from Åmøy, Stavanger.

This figure at Åmøy, Stavanger, is another example of a petroglyph figure with a bird-like head.

The Group In The Upper Middle

The silhouettes of the original petroglyphs next to my rendering of them as human-fish hybrids.

This group of three humanoid figures have even stranger head shapes than the one interpreted as a bird. They also have no arms, and they are smaller compared to the nearby figures. The proportions are different, especially in the figure to the left in this group which has short legs compared to the body. Perhaps these figures also represent people dressed in masks, or maybe they are not mean to represent humans at all. The odd head shapes could also just represent hairstyles such as pigtails and ponytails.

My drawing of the petroglyphs as a fish humanoids.

The head of the first figure remined me of a hammerhead shark, and I drew this one and the other two as mixtures between human and fish. Symbolism related to the sea is possible, as the great number of ship figures in Bronze Age petroglyphs show that the sea was very important to the people at the time. A figure specifically inspired by hammerhead sharks is quite unlikely, since hammerheads prefer warmer waters than those around Norway.

The Group To The Right

The silhouettes of the original petroglyphs next to my rendering of them as bound prisoners.

In this group I drew the first figure as a bird-humanoid, the next two as fish-humanoids and the last one as just human. On the last three figures I interpreted the lack of arms as their arms being bound. There is a line going between two of the figures, and I drew this as them being bound together. This makes it look like they’re a part of a procession of prisoners or slave, which is a possibility.

One of the humanoid figures has what looks like a very long foot. It may represent a ski or a snowshoe, but it would be strange to only wear that on one foot. It could also be another rope, or something similar, linking it to the person in front of it. These type of groups with connected lines are sometimes interpreted as orgies. The petroglyphs at Leirfall seem a bit to static and formally lined up for that though.

My drawing of the petroglyphs as a various humanoids, with the last tree being bound.

Another example of figures lined up with connecting lines is found at Herand, Vestland, pictured below.

Petroglyphs of humanoid figures connected by lines at Herand, Vestland,