A visit to the island of Bornholm off the east coast of Denmark is a rewarding experience for anyone interested in archaeology. Examples of prehistoric rock art, including drawings and symbols carved in solid granite, can be found all over the island. The most impressive and, at the same time, finest examples are at Madsebakke in the far north of Bornholm. The site is just to the north of the village of Sandvig and is well signposted. A narrow asphalt road between the villages of Allinge and Sandvig leads you via the Stadionvej (=stadium road) uphill to the site. It is easy to reach by car and is then only a short walk.
The rock carvings, sometimes called petroglyphs, date from the Bronze Age and provide the earliest evidence of prehistoric inhabitation on the island. The carvings are found on a number of hard granite rocks which were brought here by the ice during the last Ice Age. During their journey, the rocks were polished completely smooth and so provided a perfect surface for the Bronze Age carvers. The rock drawings show several motifs, of which boats are the most beautiful and also the most important. There are a number of different boats carved here and it seems that the site near Madsebaake must have had great significance for the Bronze Age inhabitants. Indeed it may well have been a sacred place.
The drawings here are coloured with reddish brown paint, which makes the symbols stand out more clearly. Originally the carvings would also have been coloured. The carvings date from 1800 to 1500 BC. and they provide us with proof that man was already building sea-worthy ships in that period, so many thousands of years ago.
Text Harry Huisman
Translation Alun Harvey