Engraved Biographies: Rock Art and the Life-Histories of Bronze Age Objects


  • Joakim Goldhahn School of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University




animated objects, cultural biographies of objects, Bronze Age, burial practice, northern Europe


This article deals with engravings depicting some­ times life­sized Bronze Age metal objects from “closed” burial contexts and “open­air” sites in northern Europe. These rock art images have mainly been used for comparative dating with the purpose of establishing rock art chronologies, or interpreted as a poor man’s” substitute for real ob­ jects that were sacrificed to immaterial gods and goddesses. In this article, these rock art images are pictured from a perspective that highlights the mu­ tual cultural biography of humans and objects. It is argued that the rare engravings of bronze ob­ jects at scale 1:1 are best explained as famous ani­ mated objects that could act as secondary agents, which sometimes allowed them to be depicted and remembered. Moreover, two different social set­ tings are distinguished for such memory practice: maritime nodes or third spaces where Bronze Age Argonauts met before, during or after their jour­ neys, e.g. places where novel technological and/or famous objects entered and re­entered the social realms, and burial contexts where animated objects sometimes was buried at the end of their life­course


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How to Cite

Goldhahn, J. (2014) “Engraved Biographies: Rock Art and the Life-Histories of Bronze Age Objects”, Current Swedish Archaeology, 22(1), pp. 97–136. doi: 10.37718/CSA.2014.09.



Research Articles