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Åsa Sjöholm

Scandinavian Rock Carvings

and Sardinian Bronzes
Were their expressions of form born in the eastern
part of the Mediterranian?

Expressions of form of Sardinian bronzes and rock carvings in southern Scan-
dinavia are similar during the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. Most
of them have the same origin. Although Sardinia as well as Scandinavia are
situated in the periphery of the Middle East and the Mediterranian cultures,
they were influenced by those cultures but expressed their offerings in differ-
ent materials. The expressions of form are used for different purposes. The
Sardinians asked for more water and the Scandinavians for less.

When, during a visit to Sardinia some years 2. Is the worthiness of the forms similar in
ago, I was standing in front of Sardinian Scandinavia and in Sardinia from the Middle
bronze figures (bronzetti), I was captured Bronze Age into the Early Iron Age?
by their expressions of form which, in a way,
I was familiar with. Soon I understood why
– they were three-dimensional “copies” of The bronzetti
our rock carvings found in Bohuslän in south- The bronze statuettes are cast with the lost
western Sweden. wax method and, according to Stary (1991:
Today, as well as during the Bronze Age, 120) the idea of making bronze warriors
Sardinia and Scandinavia are territories situ- arrived as a Phoenician import. There is a
ated in the periphery of Europe. What is the difference between imported and locally pro-
reason for finding nearly the same forms in duced bronzes. One big problem is that there
rock carvings and bronze statuettes so far are few known warrior graves in Sardinia.
away from each other and made of different There are votive statuettes, but are they true
materials during the Bronze Age and the images of soldiers or are they just images of
Early Iron Age, i.e. ~1800 – 500 B.C.? upper class soldiers or perhaps gods?
I have been working with questions and two The bronze figurines have been found mainly
of them are: at ritual places such as water temples, small
1. Are the similarities of the expressions of sanctuaries, tombs, and holy places but also
form of the bronzes and the rock carvings in the vicinity of dwellings, as hoards and as
inspired by the cultures around the Eastern casual finds. About 500 findings of bronzes
part of the Mediterranian? have been published but there might be

After Webster 1996:199

Fig. 1. Tabell (Stary 1991:134)

up to 1000 findings not yet published. Up The tribal chieftain in Sardinia often wears
to now it has been difficult to date them, a headring. He also has a staff and a frame-
but a dozen specimens are from Etruscan hilted dagger. The dagger is worn diagonally
tombs on the mainland of Italy from which across his chest (Santillo Frizell 1994a).
the firmest dates of eighth-sixth centuries
B.C. derive (Webster 1996:198). New finds A priest from Abini in Sardinia and a military
show that the statuettes were produced priest, both made of bronze, have cone-
around 1000 B.C. in Sardinia (Køllund 1998: shaped hats with wide brims. They look like
91). In his book from 1966 Giovanni Lilliu has the hats that Randsborg has described (1993:
320 pictures of votive offerings in bronze, of 114) from Schifferstadt in Germany.
these are 57 % anthropomorphic forms, 40 Another group is the adorers of which 47
% are zoomorphic, and the rest is a mixture are male and 17 female. They often keep
of votive tools, weapons, food, ceramics and the offerings in their outstretched palms.
so on. The objects varied in size from 2 to The shepherds carry their animals like calves
40 cms. and lambs, and musicians blow triple-reeded
pipes or horns.
Webster has placed the bronzes in differ- In 1966 Lilliu noted 127 zoomorphic bronzes,
ent groups to find out if they are sacred or for example oxen, bulls, one cow, goats,
profane objects. Out of 180 antropomorphic sheep, pigs, wild boars, deer, dogs, foxes,
statuettes 55 % are equipped with arms and birds, and horses. The animals are often
armours. All these warriors are men and of- alone but not on the so-called boat-lamps
ten with many details and 20-40 cms high. of bronze (Fig.12). Some ships have a stag-
The rest are unarmed and unarmoured. Out head or a bullhead protome and different
of these six are priests or priestesses. Their animals like dogs on the gunwale and birds
dresses are well-done and the figures wear even on the top of the mast.
long cloaks and wide-brimmed conical hats Webster (1996:203ff) has compared the
or another form of headgear and long hair votive animals with the bone remains at
braids. The hats differ from the high Hittitic one sanctuary and three settlements. The
hats, which were worn by the gods (Larsson sacrificed animals did not correspond to
1997:38) and the lower hats, which were the bone remains. For example, bronze birds
symbols of the kings (Kristiansen 1999:541). are found – but no bones. One explanation

Fig 2. Different types of helmets on warrior statuettes (Stary1991:121).

has been proposed that in daily life the sta- were worn on a helmet or as a tiara by the
tus of the birds was lower than in the ritual gods. Naram Sin, king of Akkad in Mesopo-
connections. tamia (2291-2255 B.C.) is portrayed with a
helmet with bullhorns.
On a stele in Ugarit from the 14th century B.C.
The routes of the expressions of form there is another god with a horn-decorated
Stary (1991:134) has constructed a table of helmet (aa. 106ff).
arms and armour of the late Bronze Age and Maybe it is Baal. A vase from Mycenae, too,
the Early Iron Age in Sardinia, in Egypt, in from the 10th century has warriors wearing
the Near East , in the Mediterranian, and in horned helmets (Stary 1991:133, Sandars
Europe (Fig. 1). 1978:189). On the wall reliefs at Medinet
Warriors and perhaps gods are dated to1000- Habu in Egypt there are fightings depicted
700 B. C. both in Assyria and in Cyprus (Stary between pharao Ramessess III and the Sea
1991:135). One lost bronze statuette from Peoples. According to the Amarna letters the
Mallorca showing soldiers with horned Sea Peoples appeared as mercenaries or as
helmets is lost, but there are such soldiers enemies (O’Connor 2000:85, Vagnetti 2000:
depicted on one stele in Corsica and on one 319). Their homeland is unknown but Vag-
stele from south-western Iberia (Randsborg netti suggests that it might have been north
1995:176). The horned helmets are also vis- of Ugarit, present Ras Shamra, at the border
ible as rock carvings in Bohuslän, on bronze district between Turkey and Syria. There are
statuettes in Sardinia, and the real helmets obvious similarities applying to weaponry,
from Viksö in Denmark. i. e. helmets and round shields, swords and
The warriors are related to prototypes in bows between pictures from Egypt around
Urartu, Luristan, and Phoenician-Syrian cul- 1200 B.C. and the bronze statuettes from
ture (Stary 1991:120). Cyprus during the 12th century B. C. and from
Sardinia from 800-700 B.C.

Horned helmets The two gods from Cyprus might have in-
To get an understanding of how the forms spired to the helmet-dressed bronzes at fig.3,
of the helmets and the other types of forms, Sardinia. They are the Horned God even
which I have chosen to study, spread to Scan- called The Horned Apollo and The Bearded
dinavia and to Sardinia, I tried to find the Ingot God, both from Enkomi. The first one
oldest pictures and/or descriptions of them. is cast in solid bronze and 54,3 cms high. It
The horned helmets are derived from Mes- is generally believed that it is from the 12th
opotamia, Anatolia, and from the Levant century (Sandars 1978:148, Winbladh 1992:
(Sandars 1978:106). In this region bullhorns 31). The bronze shows a muscular anatomy,

Fig. 3a. The Horned God Fig. 3b. The Bearded Ingot God Fig. 3c. Sardinian warrior
(Anastassiades 2001:5) (Anastassiades 2001:3) (Lilliu1966:62)

perhaps influenced by the Aegean or the as a warlike people and, if so, they cannot
oriental art (Anastassiades 2001:2f). be Sardinians as no traces of weapons are
The other god is a war god with a spear, a found from that time.
shield, and a horned helmet. The figure is ”Moreover, in regard to the identification
a summarized shape and stands on an ox- of the Sherden with warriors of Sardinian
hide ingot. It is therefore regarded as the origin, a further difficulty arise from the
protector of the copper mines which were almost complete lack of evidence for ar-
the base of the Cypriotic economy (aa:3). mour and weapons in Sardinia in the local
The two gods were found in different tem- Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Although this
ples in Encomi at the south-eastern part of is admittedly an argument ex silentio, it is
Cyprus. The war god and a bronze warrior rather surprising that, if the Sardinians of
from Sardinia bear a resemblance close to the 14th century were renowned warriors ….
each other (Fig. 3b and 3c). No trace of weaponry has been preserved
in their supposed area of origin” (Vagnetti
The Sea Peoples
During more than a hundred years scholars
have been arguing about the origin of the High conical hats
Sherden people, i. e. if they are from Sardinia Conical hats (Fig. 2:9) were common in the
or not. The Sherdens were described in the Near East, in Egypt, in Hellas, in Italy, at the
Amarna letters from the 14th century B. C. Iberian peninsula, and in Central Europe.

However, only in Sardinia double-crested complex which brought the Assyrian way of
helmets are found (Fig. 2:5). Please observe producing chariots (Kristiansen 1998:243).
that the helmets do not have two horns but
two crests.
Helmets with feathers were common in A comparative study of the expressions of
Egypt, in Assyria at Assurbanipal’s palace in form of the bronze figurines and the rock
Ninehve 668-627 B. C., and even in Cyprus. carvings
I wish to stress the expressions of form, not
the symbolic language, of both the bronzes
Kardiophylakes and the rock carvings. Sometimes it is difficult
These round helmets (Fig. 2:8) were in use as to separate them from each other because
originals both in Luristan and in Urartu and we think that we know the meaning of the
are shown as reliefs in Assyria. The helmets form. A line is a line. A cross is also a cross
of this type were found in Greek sanctuar- but can also be deciphered as a Christian
ies too. This headdress was introduced in symbol and I think that it is the context that
central Italy in the early 7 th century B.C. can show us how we can understand this
from the Middle East together with a strict sign. It is the forms I am studying and they
military discipline and some cultural influ- do not always have the same value. A high
ence. According to Stary the best analogue conical hat in Sardinia was worn by a priest,
representations of this protecting equip- but it was a sign of a divinity in the Hittite
ment for soldiers were found in Assyria kingdom. The form is the same but the value
(Stary 1991:135). is not necessarily the same.
The climate changed in Scandinavia during
the last millennium B.C.. It became cooler
War chariots and more humid (Coles 1990:9). Research
There is only one bronze chariot known in about the local use of the soil during this
Sardinia. It is a miniature. To use war chariots time is still going on – but maybe it had an
in bronze is presumably a natural develop- influence on the harvest (Lagerås o Regnell
ment from the heavy and clumsy wagons 1999:273).
which were pulled by oxen or donkeys. A
close connection between the Maikop cul- My opinion is that the weather in the cold,
ture in Caucasus and the northern part of misty North forced people to carve their of-
Mesopotamia is noted as early as during the ferings and prayers in stone – figuratively
latter part of the 4th millennium B.C. (Lars- speaking – in order to receive more sun and
son 1997:54f). A bronze wheel from around warmth and in Sardinia they asked for water
3000-2500 B.C. with four spokes has been and cooler weather. They built water temples
found in a Kurgan grave nearby Maikop. where they offered bronze statuettes to the
During Hattusilis’ reign, 1650-1620 B.C., his water gods. It was a period of draught. The
military power was the war chariots with remarkable thing is that they used the same
four spoke-wheels of bronze. expressions of form, in different materials
The Trundholm chariot from Denmark, 1500 however.
-1300 B.C., has three pairs of four-spoke
wheels. It is a cult wagon, pulling the sun
made of two bronze discs and one side is Adorers
gilded. In Sweden there is a rock carving The bronze figurine (Fig.4a) is one of three
at the Kivik grave with a picture of two similar figures. They are adorers or ceremo-
horses pulling a two-wheel chariot with a nially greeting fighters or soldiers. Fig. 4b is
standing warrior. These two Scandinavian an adorer from Rished, Bohuslän together
chariots show that people knew about four with the cloak-dressed man (Fig. 5b) and a
spoke-wheels in the early Bronze Age. wagon pulled by two oxen. Adorers are of-
The Hallstadt wagons, HaC, were introduced ten close to ships, wagons, or other objects
by the contact with the Traco-Cimmerian (Coles 1990:25).

Fig. 4a (Lilliu 1996:55). Fig. 4b (Coles 1990:71). Fig. 5a (Sjöholm 1997) Fig. 5b (Coles 1990:71)

Cloak-dressed men a procession in a long row. All with very

The bronze figure (Fig. 5a) is a tribal chief- high hats. Randsborg (1993: 114) compares
tain since he wears a cloak, a headring, a these with the hats from Schifferstadt in
frame-hilted dagger, and a staff. Germany and with a hat from Avanton
in France. I think a plume helmet can be
proposed too.
Variations of helmets
Fig. 6a is a small bronze head, just 6.5 cms
high with a plume helmet. I think that it Men with horned helmets
brings to mind the rock carving from Bro, Fig.7a represents an adorer or a warrior with
(Fig. 6b). Both also have a distinctively marked a shield but it is the horned helmet which is
nose or bill. Fig. 6c shows a man walking in of interest. This bronze warrior has earlier

Fig. 6 a (Lilliu 1966:98) Fig. 6b (Adoranten 1996) Fig. 6c (Coles (1996:cover)

Fig. 7a (Lilliu 1966:62) Fig. 7b (Coles 1990:85)

like an owl’s head. The rock carving from

Hede in Bohuslän, (Fig. 8b), is a man with
both a shield and a horned helmet and the
last picture (Fig. 8c) is one of the shields of-
fered at Kålland in Västergötland.

been compared with the War God from Archers

Cyprus (Fig. 3b). The rock carving (Fig.7b) is Both the bronze archer from Sardinia (Fig.8a)
from Utmark, Bohuslän. More rock figures and the rock carving (Fig.8b) from Kville,
from the same place wear horned helmets Bohuslän, have, presumably, small recurve
– but not all of them bows used by the equestrian peoples from
Central Asia. These archers are solidly stand-
ing on the ground and almost never riding
Round shields their horses. Longbows have been found in
In fig. 8a you see a soldier with a shield. The the Scandinavian finds. There is, however,
well known Greek historian and geographer one exception. The Sardinian bronzes have
Strabon described the shields from Sardinia long and short bows but the Sardinians evi-
as small, light and made of leather. (Stary dently did not use horses in battles (Stary
1991:131) considers that even if Strabon lived 1991:121).
during the first hundred years B.C. it was
probable that the weapons were similar at
that time. The bronze figurine is generally Men on horses
believed to be a soldier, but with a peculiar The bronze man (Fig. 10 a) is probably a hero,
face. The head is very skilfully shaped on the an acrobat, or a divinity, who is carried by
upper part, but the lower part looks more a horse in the sky, launching sunrays in the

Fig. 8 b (Hygen& Bengtsson Fig.8c (Hygen & Bengtsson 1999:82;
1999:109; photo by Utne) photo by Utne)

Fig.8a (Lilliu 1966:247)

form of arrows. In fig. 10 b one man is trying Deer

to separate the horses and another one The bronze deer (Fig. 11a) is a gracile statu-
ette in early geometric style. The rock art
is riding. None of the men in these pictures deers (Fig.11b) are from Tanum, Bohuslän.
look like fighting men. Presumably ritual
activities are depicted.

Fig. 9a (Lilliu 1966:70) Fig. 10a (Lilliu 1966 :311).

Fig. 9b (Coles 1990:57)

Fig. 10b (Bengtsson 1995:64).

Fig. 11a (Lilliu 1966:34) Fig. 11b (Gudnitz 1962) Fig. 11b (Gudnitz 1962)

The ships (Fig.12a &12b) are bronze boats to Suppiluliuma (Fig. 13) from Hattusa in the
from Sardinia, looked upon as oil lamps. 12th century B.C. (Ceram 1956:80).
The rock carving (Fig. 12c) is from Åby,
Bohuslän. According to Coles (1990:84f) The rock art ship from Fossum, Bohuslän,
the standards may be big battle-axes, holy (Fig.12d) makes me think of the Sardinian
mushrooms, leaves, or spearheads. One of oil lamp, (Fig.12b). Both ships have animal
the standards is similar to the seal belonging protomes at the prow and they also have

Fig. 12
a (Lilliu 1966:409) b (Lilliu 1966:427)
c (Coles 1990:18) d (Sjöholm 1996 )


Fig.13 Suppiliuma’s Seal (detail)

birds above and sun symbols in form of either Anatolia. That means that Scandinavia has
rings or shields. been influenced by many cultures in differ-
Studies of the ships in Sardinia show that ent ways, directly or indirectly.
they were used as both votives and ordinary 2. The answer is yes and no. The problem
lamps. is that we either do not understand all the
forms or think that we do understand some
The symbol “Sonnenbarkenvogel” during the of them. I have chosen pictures that illustrate
Urnfield culture was common in many parts similarities of the expressions of form. These
of Europe and it shows the common tradition can have different value according to my
in this area (Kristiansen 1998:65, 169ff). way of looking at them.
The Sea Pepoles at Medinat Habu used boats
with seabirds at the prow and at the stern.
To find parallels to them we have to look The Worthiness of the Forms
at Central Europe. The first “birdships” are The adorers in figure 4 show the same worth-
dated to 1250-1200 B.C. in Velem in Hungary iness of subservience in front of the holiness
and Satu Mare in Romania (Bouzek1999:59; or the authorities.
Wachsmann 2000:122). The cloak-dressed men ( Fig. 5) are more
difficult to have an opinion on, because I
do not know if the cloak in Scandinavia is
Interpretation of my questions a sign of a chieftain, a priest, or someone
1. The answer is both yes and no. During else. However, the bronze statuette is con-
the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age sidered to be a tribal chieftain, because he
there are many indications of contact between is wearing a cloak, a frame-hilted dagger,
Sardinia and the Middle East, but the island and a head-ring.
has even had contacts to the west and to the Lilliu finds the bronze statuette (Fig.7a)
north. It has an original culture as well, from to be either an adorer or a warrior. If the
which we can see their houses, the nuraghes, figure is an adorer like the ones described
and their special water temples in which peo- above (Fig.4a) the worthiness is probably
ple offered the bronze votives with sometimes the same in Sardinia as in Scandinavia. We
endemic forms or details. think that the rock carvings are expressions
The rock carvings are described by many au- of social-religious myths and rituals (Hygen
thors and many of them have deduced the & Bengtsson 1999:166ff). We look upon the
forms from the Mediterranian area including helmets as warrior equipment. If, instead, the

Water temple in Perfu-
gas (Sjöholm 1997).
Please, imagine the
dome above.

bronze figurine is looked upon as a warrior, In the Hittite lands the deer was a god and
then his helmet is a sign of that and not as a its name was Kurunta. The Celts called their
deity attribute as in the Middle East and in god Cernunnos (Hygen & Bengtsson 1999:36).
Cyprus. If so, the worthiness of the helmet In Scandinavia we saw the deer as a symbol
is different. of life, renewal, rebirth, and passage of time
The shields (Fig. 8a—c) are common in the (aa:115). The deer is truly a holy animal in
whole Mediterranian area as well as into Scandinavia and perhaps even in Sardinia.
Scandinavia. The bronze figure is maybe I have written about the chariots and to
wearing a shield of leather as protection. be observed wheels are common on rock
The head of the soldier is a mixture of a hu- carvings but nearly non existing in antique
man and a bird’s head. That might be due Sardinia As far as I know there are only one
to religious reasons. In Scandinavia we look miniature wheel with four spokes and one
upon the bronze shields (Fig.8c) from Kål- miniature chariot with two four-spoked
land as sun symbols and they were offered in wheels. Because of these few finds of wheel
the water. If they were sun symbols and the crosses that form cannot have the same im-
bronze soldier wore protection, it seems to portance at Sardinia as in Scandinavia.
be different worthinesses of the shields.
Fig. 9a, 9b &10a are archers. The first two Summary
have short, easy bows like the Central Asiatic I have tried to find out why Sardinian bronzes
equestrian peoples, but both men are safely and Scandinavian rock carvings during the
standing on the ground. These archers are Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age have
used in ritual situations both in Sardinia and the same expressions of form.
in Scandinavia. I have been working with two questions.
The bronze statuette (Fig. 10a) is standing 1. Are the forms inspired by the cultures
on horseback and is tied together with the in the eastern part of the Mediterranian
horse. There is only one riding archer in the area?
rock carvings in Tanum in Bohuslän. If the 2. Is the worthiness of the forms similar in
interpretation of the bronze divinity is cor- Scandinavia and in Sardinia during these
rect and the bow is a short Asiatic one, it is periods?
possible to see all three as ritual attributes Sardinia has not been part of the earlier
with the same worthiness. cultures like the Minoan or the Mycenaean

cultures. There have been sporadic contacts. Glyfer och arkeologiska rum – en vänbok till
Not until the Phoenicians founded trading Jarl Nordbladh. Göteborg.
places on the island, permanent contact was Køllund, M. 1998. Helligdomme på Sardinien
established. Water temples are only found i en sen bronze- og tidlig jernalder (1300
among the Nuraghic people. They were prob- – 700 f. Kr.). Köpenhamn.
ably built during a period of draught. Above Lagerås, P. & Regnell, M. 1999. En diskus-
all in these temples the bronze statuettes sion om skenbara samband och olösta
were offered, forms which I often find similar gåtor. I: Olausson, M. (red.) Spiralens öga.
to the rock carvings in Bohuslän. Södertälje.
It is fascinating that people in Sardinia had Larsson, Th. B. 1997. Materiell kultur och
a lack of water. Up in the damp and cold religiösa symboler. Umeå
Nordic countries people expressed themselves Lilliu, G. 1966. Sculture Della Sardegna Nur-
in the same forms but in a different mate- agica. Verona.
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people asked for less water with the same Vol. 2. Tanumshede.
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all the details of the equipment of the Randsborg, K. 1993. Kivik Archaeology &
warriors and that the bronzes are three- Iconography. Acta Archaeologica Scandi-
dimensional. navica Vol 64 1993.
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