Vingen Figure Interpretation 1

The petroglyph figure at Vingen. (Source: Virtuelle Vingen / Universitetet i Bergen)

The Vingen rock carvings (Vingenfeltet) are located in Bremanger in Vestland County. It is one of the largest rock carving sites in Norway and the carvings are dated to approximately 4000-3000 BCE during the Nordic Stone Age. I’ve been taking a look at one of many striped mammal figures found at the site.

The Figure as a Moose

The figure interpreted as a moose (but it looks more like a donkey).

The Norwegian Stone Age petroglyphs are full of members of the deer family, such as moose, red deer, or reindeer. With its big, droopy, nose I thought this figure looks more like a moose than any of the others. So, my first rendering of the figure was as a moose.

I didn’t do much with the pattern of vertical lines here, but these are common in stone age petroglyphs. There are no examples of animals in the deer familiy with vertically striped fur, so it is probable that the stripes represents something else.

After I rendered the figure as a moose it ended looking more like a donkey with its long, thing, ears and big belly. It might represent a pregnant animal, but pregnancy isn’t really that visible on a moose. I’ve already drawn a few other interpretations of petroglyphs that ended up looking like donkeys, such as this one and one of these from Moelv. Donkeys where domesticated in Africa around 3000 BCE, and while I haven’t found an exact date for when the first donkeys were brought to Norway, it would have been long after this. Maybe thousands of years later. And even then, donkeys where never saw much use in Norway. So it is extremely unlikely that these figures represent donkeys. But it is interesting why the animal figures were carved in this way. The long, thing, ears are very common on petroglyphs of animal figures that look like deer.

Drawing of a moose for comparison. The petroglyph is also missing the shoulder hump that moose have.

The Figure as a Tapr

The figure interpreted as a striped tapir.

The long noose of the figure made me think of a tapir, and I wanted to see what it looked like if I rendered it as one. Tapirs are found in South America and Southeast Asia, so it is very unlikely that there is a Stone Age carving of a tapir in Norway. But since the figure only vaguely fits anything from the deer family, I wanted to see what happened if I rendered it as something completely different.

With the exception of the long nose the figure doesn’t really have much in common with a tapir. Tapirs generally have round ears, so the tall, thin, ears are not a good match for tapirs either. They also have short, thick, necks – and the figure has a thin and elongated neck. Tapir babies have horizontal stripes, but not vertical stripes like this figure. It’s not a tapir.

The most likely interpretation of the figure is as a pregnant animal of the deer family found in Norway, such as red deer or moose. But there are several characteristics of the carving that doesn’t fit with these animals. This could be disregarded as simply being lack of skill from those who carved the petroglyphs. But some of the unusual characteristics, such as the vertical stripes, where definitely done on purpose and not by accident.