This article uses rock art to explore potential bonds between Scandinavia and Italy, starting in the second half of the third millennium BCE with the enigmatic Mjeltehaugen burial monument in coastal western Norway and its striking rock art images, and ending in the first millennium BCE with ship motifs in inland Val Camonica, Italy. While the carved dagger on the Mjeltehaugen slab is unique in its Nordic setting, such weapon depictions are frequently seen on the Continent, e.g. in South Tyrol, and more often in later Nordic rock art. Strong evidence of trade relations between the Italian Alps and Scandinavia is found c. 1500–1100 BCE when the importation of copper from South Tyrol coincided with two-way transmission of luxury items, and again in a different form, c. 1000–700 BCE when strong similarities in burial traditions between the two areas may be seen as evidence of direct cultural connections or a shared cultural koiné. In order to understand the social fabric of these relations and how they unfolded through time, the authors discuss several different models of interaction. It is hypothesised that rock art practices played a role in establishing and maintaining durable social relations, through what we consider to be a two-way transmission of symbolic concepts and iconography during seasonal meetings related to trade and travel.
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