Carved footprints and prehistoric beliefs: examples of symbol and myth, practice and ideology.

Author(s): Ulf Bertilsson

Year: 2015


Footprints are frequent on prehistoric petroglyphs. The author has studied its design, sprawl, dating and interpretation in archaeological research as a wider investigation of this theme. Case studies of significant rock art sites in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and the Near East show that the footprint is a general phenomenon, occurring in all these areas during the time period c. 3000 BC - 500 BC. The footprints have been interpreted in different ways; as the epitome of an otherwise invisible deity, a sign of reverence or as a symbol of a dead person.

Footprints may have more complex meaning manifested in a partly sliding form scale, also related to the time factor. They stand out as symbols of great vitality, length and spread in the prehistoric imagery and world of conceptions. This indicates archetypal characteristics, and representation of a phenomenon that in recent research has been termed core universals. This is further illustrated by the fact that footprints also occur in the Native American rock art e.g. the Central Mississippi River Valley, a fact that opens up avenues for further investigation into this specific symbol.

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Cite this Record

Carved footprints and prehistoric beliefs: examples of symbol and myth, practice and ideology.. Ulf Bertilsson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397146)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;