Kåfjord is one of the five areas with rock art on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The rock carvings in Kåfjord were discovered in 1978, and today about 1500 figures have been registered there. The site is about 3 km from Hjemmeluft (as the crow flies) on the other side of the entrance to the Kåfjord. Kåfjord is the biggest singel panel in Alta.

A small part of the panel at Kåfjord Photo: Karin Tansem

The rock carvings in Kåfjord are about 18-26 metres above today’s sea level, and can therefore be dated to phases 1 and 2 (c.7000 – 5000 years ago). The type of rock that the carvings were chiselled into is a softish clay slate with red and green vertical stripes. The carvings in Kåfjord have a great deal in common with those of the same phases in Hjemmeluft, but the Kåfjord carvings have a number of scenes and figures that are not found in Hjemmeluft . Unlike Hjemmeluft, the Kåfjord figures are much more concentrated to a smaller area, whilst those at Hjemmeluft are spread over a wider geographical area.

The site at Kåfjord is detailed and varied with many characteristic scenes and figures which give a unique picture of a complex and rich world of thoughts and ideas. On the rock surfaces we can see hunting and fishing, animal life, boats, bear dens, implements and equipment. People are depicted in a variety of situations - on snowshoes, hunting, performing rituals. There are corrals for reindeer hunting, along with a number of geometrical patterns. A wide range of animals are portrayed, such as reindeer, elk, dogs, grouse, halibut and whales. We can also see a lot of bears, bear dens and bear tracks. It seems that bears had a special place in people’s beliefs and rituals. A characteristic feature of the rock carvings in Kåfjord are the many tracks. We can follow the tracks of reindeer herds that have been driven into the corral, or bears wandering between other figures on the site. There are more than 350 bear tracks, and also human footprints and snowshoes. Many scenes show people gathered together for activities and rituals. For example, there is a unique composition of nineteen people standing together and holding hands. They are standing in a circle round something that may be an animal, a person or perhaps a shaman. Another group of people have gathered around what appears to be two dogs mating.