Zalavruga (Russie) / Nämforsen (Suède): Bronze Age 'Facebook' discovered

Bronze Age 'Facebook' discovered by Cambridge experts

Leanne Ehren

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Mark Sapwell believes he has discovered an ‘archaic version’ of social networking site Facebook.

00271553.jpg Ancient rock art has been likened to a prehistoric form of Facebook by a Cambridge archaeologist.

Mark Sapwell, who is a PhD archaeology student at St John’s College, believes he has discovered an “archaic version” of the social networking site, where users share thoughts and emotions and give stamps of approval to other contributions – similar to the Facebook “like”.

Images of animals and events were drawn on the rock faces in Russian and Northern Sweden to communicate with distant tribes and descendants during the Bronze Age.

They form a timeline preserved in stone encompassing thousands of years.

Mr Sapwell said: “Like a Facebook status invites comment, the rock art appears very social and invites addition – the way the variations of image both mirror and reinterpret act as a kind of call and response between different packs of hunters across hundreds – even thousands – of years.”

The two sites he is investigating, Zalavruga in Russia and Nämforsen in Northern Sweden, contain around 2,500 images each of animals, people, boats, hunting scenes and even early centaurs and mermaids.

He is using the latest technology to analyse the different types, traits and tropes in the thousands of images imprinted on the two granite outcrops, where the landscapes of early Bronze Age art stretch across areas of rock the size of football pitches.

Mr Sapwell, 28, explained: “These sites are on river networks, and boat is likely how these Bronze Age tribes travelled.

“The rock art I’m studying is found near rapids and waterfalls, places where you would have to maybe leave the river and walk around – carrying your animal-skin canoe on your back – natural spots to stop and leave your mark as you journey through, like a kind of artistic tollbooth.”

He added: “There’s clearly something quite special about these spaces. I think people went there because they knew people had been there before them.

“Like today, people have always wanted to feel connected to each other – this was an expression of identity for these very early societies, before written language.”