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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the rock art of the British Isles and northernmost Europe, highlighting contrasts between the regional patterns and considering some points of similarity in the effects of producing rock art. Acknowledging the difficulty with identifying a Neolithic period in northern Scandinavia, the range of Scandinavian rock art that is likely to have been made in the period c. 4000–1800 BC is discussed. The figurative imagery used in the art is described and interpretations considered, and the potential impact on art production of interaction with Neolithic communities is considered. By contrast, the Neolithic rock art of Britain and Ireland is overwhelmingly abstract, leading to different interpretative approaches: this art, its locations, and the interpretations posited in making sense of it, are explored. The abstract nature of the art is brought to the fore, and attention is paid to the practice of art production and the potential for future engagements and transformations to decorated surfaces provided by rock art. While the art of the two regions is clearly distinct, and the form and meanings of motifs differed considerably, the practice of image production may have been similarly important in producing connections with the past, and in producing experiences and identities extended towards the future.

Keywords: Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, rock art, figurative or representational art, non-figurative or abstract art, landscape, monuments

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