Alta Museums digital rock art archive is now available online at

    In the Rock Art Archive the world heritage of Alta is made available to everyone. Rock art which is otherwise not possible for the public to experience can now be visited through the archive. The Rock Art Archive is initially meant to be a resource for the heritage management and rock art research. By making the archive accessible to all, we also aim to increase the knowledge and interest in the world heritage of Alta among the general public. 

    Two web-applications

    The Rock Art Archive consists of two online applications. The Rock Art Map functions as a portal into the archive. Here, all known rock art panels in Alta are presented with photo and text.

    Example of screen image from the Rock Art Map.

    Direct links to tracings, photo mosaics and overview-photos provide a quick impression of the individual rock art panels. Every panel in the map is linked to the Rock Art Archives FotoWeb.

    Example of screen image from FotoWeb.

    On the FotoWeb you’ll find the actual contents of the archive available for study and downloading. The material can be explored panel by panel, or by larger locations and areas. 

    The Archive Contents

    Visitors of the rock art archive will experience that the contents of the archive varies from rock art panel to rock art panel. For some panels, a large amount of documentation is available, from other panels only a limited selection is present. The reason for this is that the rock art panels have been documented to various degrees. At the same time some panels have been documented extensively and it takes time to treat and include this material in the archive.

    Our long term goal is to collect and make available an extensive and varied material. Visual documentation of the rock art, photos especially, will always be the largest part of the archive's contents. So far, our main focus is to establish a high-quality base documentation that covers as much of the rock art of Alta as possible.

    Over time the archive will be expanded to include management documents, scientific literature, videos and media coverage on the world heritage of Alta..

    Documenting the rock art at Alta Museum

    Documenting the rock art is a central task in managing the world heritage. Photography is Alta Museum's primary method for documentation of rock art. The digital photo material is also used as a basis to produce other visual material such as tracings and photo mosaics.

    Example of a tracing from the Rock Art Archive.. Tracing by: Karin Tansem, Alta Museum.

    With our photo-material we want to depict the rock art in as ideal conditions as possible. The best photos of rock carvings are achieved with sunlight hitting the rock surface at an oblique angle, this makes the carvings stand out without having to accentuate them artificially. Achieving these photos however, requires optimal weather conditions and being at the right place at the right time. Furthermore, some carvings are situated such that they are almost never subjected to the right conditions. Thus it takes time to establish a photo-material of Altas world heritage with the quality that Alta Museum is aiming for.

    Example of a photo from the Rock Art Archive, human figures from Amtmannsnes. Photo by: Karin Tansem, Alta Museum.

    Maintenance makes new documentation necessary

    Effective maintenance of the world heritage in Alta in recent years has improved the condition of the rock art panels significantly. Cleaning all panels of lichens and the removal of old and worn out paint fillings from carvings in the outdoors exhibition area in Hjemmeluft are especially important activities. This also becomes apparent in the archive contents.

    Example of the situation previously and today, on the left: Photo of a bear-figure in 2006, on the right: the same figure in 2010. Photo by: Karin Tansem, Alta Museum.
    After cleaning the rock surfaces of lichens, new connections between the figures and the rock surface have been discovered. Also, it is not unusual to find previously unknown figures on rock art panels initially discovered four decades ago.

    This development means that Alta Museum needs to update the documentation, because that which has been produced previously no longer reflects the rock art panels as we know them today. As the documentation-work continues, the results will be made available to all through the Rock Art Archive.