Rock Art and the Wild Mind presents a study of Mesolithic rock art on the Scandinavian peninsula, including the large rock art sites in Alta, Nämforsen and Vingen.
Hunters’ rock art of this area, despite local styles, bears a strong commonality in what it depicts, most often terrestrial big game in diverse confrontations with the human realm. The various types of compositions are defined as visual thematizations of the enigmatic relationship between humans and big game animals. These thematizations, here defined as motemes, are explained as being products of the Mesolithic mind ‘in action’, observed through repetitions, variations and transformations of a number of defined motemes. Through a transformational logic, the transition from ‘animic’ to ‘totemic’ rock art is observed. Totemic rock art reaches a peak during the final stages of the Late Mesolithic, and it is suggested that this can be interpreted as representing an increasing focus on human society towards the end of this era. The move from animism to totemism is explained as being part of the overall social development on the Scandinavian peninsula.
This book will be of interest to students of rock art generally and scholars working on the historical developments of prehistoric hunter-gatherers in northern Europe. It will also appeal to students and academics in the fields of art history and aesthetics and to those interested in the work of Lévi-Strauss.