Solberg Figure Interpretation 1

Photograph of the original petroglyphs at Solbergfeltet in Sarpsborg.

I’ve been looking closer at some of the figures from Solbergfeltet and have done some drawn interpretations.

The First Group

The three figures to the left in the photograph drawn as a shaman beating a drum and two dancers.

The first three figures to the left in the photograph I interpreted as a shaman beating a drum and two dancers. The middle figure has only one leg, and I interpreted that as a long dress. Notice the extreme difference in how long or short the torsos of these figures are. This variation in torso length is typical for the petroglyphs in this area. The figures are simple, almost stick figures, and the variation in torso could be accidental. But when the difference between figures right next to each other is as significant as in this example, it makes me wonder if the creators didn’t have some reasoning behind it.

Among the various figures at this site there are a lot of carvings of circular shapes. These sort of shapes are often thought to be related to the sun. In this case I tried drawing them as bubbles floating around the dancers, which makes it a sort of dream/trance-like surreal situation with the shaman and the dancers. I doubt that bubbles are what the creators of the petroglyphs had in mind. But maybe it could be some sort of dotted-pattern seen in when inducing trance-like states.

The Second Group

The humanoid figure above the three animal figures to the right of the first group in the photograph. Drawn as a baby, a horse, a dog, and a lizard.

Next to the figures I have drawn as a shaman and two dancers is another humanoid figure with a short torso, and below it are three animal figures. The proportions of the humanoids with short torsos reminded me of babies or children, so I drew this humanoid as a baby. It is possible that the figures with elongated torsos represent adults, and the ones with short torsos represent children.

The humanoid figure is placed floating above one of the animals, as if it is riding or jumping over the animal. It reminds me of the representations of bull-leaping seen in Minoan art. A lot of the figures at this site seems to be in rather active poses, and it is possible that this one is engaged in some sort of acrobatic ritual involving animals. Which makes it rather unlikely that the figure is a baby, but it could still represent a young individual. The bull-leapers in Minoan art often look young, and it has been speculated that it was done as a rite of passage.

As for the three animal figures, I find it most likely that they all represent horses. But in order to experiment I only drew the first one as a horse. The second one I drew as a dog, and the third one lacking forelimbs I drew as a lizard. No matter what animal they originally represent, I think the proportions are wrong. The midsections and necks are too elongated for the short limbs.

The forelimbs of the third animal may have been carved, but then faded over time and could not be seen when the archologists painting these petroglyphs to make them visible for visitors to the site. Also notice that this animal is drawn with a belly that may represent pregnancy.

The Third Group

This third group of symbols that I have interpreted is not seen in the first photograph in the post, but they are just a little to the right of the figures seen in that picture.

Photograph of another group of petroglyphs at Solbergfeltet in Sarpsborg.
A ship figure, two circular figure and one humanoid figure. Drawn as a ship with passengers, tail-biting snakes with the earth in the center of one of them, and a large man with raised arms.

The vertical lines in the midsection of petroglyph ship figures are often interpreted as people on board the ships. So I gave this ship figure a set of passengers.

On the right side, below the ship figure is a humanoid figure that could be a giant or a god if the little lines on the ship represent humans. Another figure with short torso and big arms.

I doubt that the creators always put much meaning into the comparative size between figures. Ship figure appears so often in Bronze Age petroglyphs that they almost seem more like religious symbols rather than representing real ships. Like how the crucifix is used as a symbol in Christianity and represents something more than a human figure attached to a cross.

As for the two circular shapes, I drew one as a snake eating its tail, and the other circle as two snakes devouring each other with the Earth in the middle. Again, these circles may very well be variations on the sun symbol. But it is interesting to explore alternatives.

Serpents eating their own tails is an old symbol that appears in many ancient cultures. The symbol is often known as Ouroboros. There are no clear indications that the Bronze Age people who created these petroglyphs were familiar with such a symbol. However, the Norse culture that came later had the legend of the World Serpent, Jörmungandr, who encircles the Earth and bites his own tail.