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Representations of oxhide ingots in Scandinavian rock art: the sketchbook of a Bronze Age traveller?

  • Johan Ling (a1) and Zofia Stos-Gale (a2)

Bronze Age trade networks across Europe and the Mediterranean are well documented; Baltic amber and bronze metalwork were particularly valued commodities. Here it is argued that demand for copper and tin led to changes in Scandinavian trade routes around 1600 BC, which can be linked to the appearance of figurative rock art images in southern Scandinavia. Images identified as oxhide ingots have been discovered in Sweden and suggest that people from Scandinavia were familiar with this characteristically Mediterranean trading commodity. Using trace element and lead isotope analysis, the authors argue that some bronze tools excavated in Sweden could have been made of Cypriot copper; these two discoveries suggest that Scandinavians were travelling to the Mediterranean, rather than acting through a middle man.

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