Vingen figure interpretation 3

Silhouette of the original petroglyph, interpretation as a human skeleton, a human-tree hybrid and a human-seal hybrid.

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 have already drawn interpretations of one of the figures at Vingen that is typically thought to represent a human skeleton. This time I have done interpretations of another figure from Vingen that many think looks like a human skeleton, but it looks very different from the other skeletal figure. The site at Vingen was probably in use for many generations. If both figures represent human skeletons the difference in how they are drawn could be explained by different artists carving them during different time periods. Or maybe the figures are meant to represent two different concepts.

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

The Figure as a Human Skeleton

The figure interpreted as a human skeleton.

The above drawing is a rendering of the figure as a human skeleton, adhering to the silhouette of the original rock carving. While I do agree that this interpretation appears to be the most plausible, it is worth noting that the figure has certain peculiar features: it lacks arms, the torso is too elongated, and the rib bones are chunky, extending all the way down to the legs.

The Figure as a Human-Tree Hybrid

The figure interpreted as a human-tree hybrid.

Although this interpretation might seem far-fetched, the rib bones of the figure reminded me of the branches of a fir tree. Additionally, there are petroglyphs typically interpreted as trees that share similarities with this figure, minus the head and legs.

Petroglyph at Solberg commonly interpreted as a tree.

Why would Stone Age humans create a figure that represents a fusion between a human and a tree? Some scholars argue that most petroglyphs serve as a means of storytelling and myth-sharing. Humanoid creatures with close connections to nature appear in many ancient mythologies, such as nymphs and fairies. One notable example is the Greek myth of Daphne, a nymph who escaped from Apollo by transforming into a tree.

Apollo and Daphne, attributed to Piero del Pollaiuolo. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The figure as a human-seal hybrid

The figure interpreted as a human-seal hybrid.

There is something fish-like, or seal-like, about the petroglyph when seen lying on the side. But it still has a head and legs, which makes me think more abouts seals. Seals can appear quite human-like when poking their heads above water, and the hind-flippers can be feet-like. This last drawing is an interpretation of the petroglyph as a human-sea creature hybrids, such as selkies.

Seafood, including seals, played a crucial role in the diet in Stone Age Norway. Given their human-like appearance and significance in daily sustenance, it is plausible that seals also featured in their mythology. However, much like the human-tree hybrid, this interpretation remains speculative.

Although the human skeleton interpretation is most likely, it is fascinating to explore alternative possibilities. Is it simply a bad rendition of a human skeleton, or was it carved that way for a specific reason? Examining various interpretations of petroglyphs may reveal new insights into the beliefs and values of the Nordic Stone Age people.