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Sailing Rock Art Boats

A reassessment of seafaring abilities in Bronze Age Scandinavia and the introduction of the sail in the North

Boel Bengtsson
Publication Year:
172 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 6 tables (in colour), 97 figures (46 in colour)
BAR number:


This book argues that the use of sail as a complement to paddling would have formed an integral part of the development of centres of power in the early Scandinavian Bronze Age, permitting more frequent communication, and thus helping to expand, maintain and control power. This argument stands in sharp contrast to the current belief that the introduction of the sail in the North occurred between the 7th or 8th and the 10th centuries AD. This reassessment of the potential timing and development in the use of the sail derives mainly from an examination of the Bronze Age rock art (c. 1800-500 BC) in southern Scandinavia containing imagery of boats with attributes that can be interpreted as masts and sails, in combination with experimental sail trials in Bronze Age type boats, and using early sailing in ancient Egypt and Oceania as a backdrop.

Dr Boel Bengtsson has a PhD/MSc in Maritime Archaeology from Southampton University. She has won two World Sailing Championships, the Swedish Lady Sailor of the Year award, and participated in the 1996 Olympics for Sweden. Living in the UK, she has worked as a maritime archaeologist there and in Sweden.

‘Par cette monographie, l’auteur contribue de manière significative à une discussion importante, et on peut recommender cet ouvrage non seulement aux experts dans ce domaine, mais aussi aux étudiants, ainsi qu’aux non experts qui s’intéressent aux projets archéologiques expérimentaux et à l’iconographie préhistorique de bateaux.’ Dr Panagiota Markoulaki, Revue de l’Archéologie du Bateau, Issue I, April 2020

‘The work of assembling the relevant material is impressive…The evidence is well presented, with good illustrations.’ Arne Emil Christensen, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Volume 48.2, 2019

‘A thorough and comprehensive contribution, with a combined historical-ethnographic and experimental approach, which takes the discussion a huge leap forward. ... The experimental trials and how they have been thoroughly documented are of extreme value to this subject area. ... In my opinion this is a refreshing approach to an old, unresolved problem, which brings the discussion to a new level of insight. It is a truly innovative work that is likely to make its impact especially in theories about exchange, travel and technological evolution.’ Dr Lene Melheim, University of Oslo

Table of Contents (S2865_9781407315690_ToC.pdf, 95 Kb) [Download]