The Rock Drawings of Alta constitute the most important piece of evidence in favour of the existence of human activity in the confines of the Great North during the prehistoric period. Studied from 1967, the petroglyphs of the Alta fjord in the province of Tromsø were immediately classed among the leading rock art sites in the world. Close to the Arctic Circle, they are a valuable illustration of human activity between 4200 and 500 BC in the Northern Hemisphere.
The position of the paintings and engravings with respect to sea level at different postglacial periods constitutes a relative dating element, which is corroborated by objective iconography data. According to the principle of reverse stratigraphy, the most ancient works are generally the highest, the most recent being close to the present sea level (the height difference is roughly 26 m). They are primordial evidence of the fauna, representing reindeer, elks, bears, dogs and/or wolves, foxes, hares, geese, ducks, swans, cormorants, halibut, salmon and whales, and of the environment. They also depict boating, hunting, trapping and fishing scenes, as well as people taking part in dances and ritual acts. In the final phase, some agricultural activities, rendered precarious by the climate, appear to have supplemented certain staples traditionally provided by hunting and fishing.
The thousands of paintings and engravings located at 45 sites scattered over seven localities illustrate a chronological sequence consisting of four phases. The largest area is at Hjemmeluft/Jiepmaluokta, where Alta Museum is situated. Approximately 3,000 figures have been found here. This is the only area open to the public. In addition, there is an area with rock paintings. Some of the panels at Hjemmeluft/Jiepmaluokta are linked by wooden footways.
Hunters and fishers in the late Stone Age/early Metal Age, between 6,200 and 2,000 years ago, made the rock carvings in Alta. During this period, Hjemmeluft/Jiepmaluokta was where people from the coast and inland regions, who gathered here several times a year perhaps in connection with seasonal, nomadic journeys, performed ritual ceremonies. The rock carvings depict some of the beliefs held by these people and the rites they practised. The rock carvings were probably elements in myths and stories about the worlds inhabited by the people and the spirits.
The rock carvings at Hjemmeluft/Jiepmaluokta were hewn into the massive and hard sandstone using one stone as a chisel and another stone or an antler as a hammer. The outlines of the figures were pecked out first, and then the lines and surfaces were chiselled out. Today many of the figures are difficult to see, and, therefore, some of the figures along the wooden footway are painted with a red colour resembling the colour of the rock paintings in Scandinavia. However, the majority of the rock carvings in Alta are not painted.
The museum exhibition covers the period from the pioneer settlement 11,000 years ago to the birth of Christ. It gives a thematic introduction to Finnmark's prehistory, which has been studied by researchers ever since the geologist and archaeologist Anders Nummedal discovered the earliest settlements in this part of Norway in 1925. This pioneer settlement in the early Stone Age was previously known as the Komsa Culture, named after the little mountain in Alta where Nummedal made his first finds. Throughout the Stone Age and early Metal Age, hunting and fishing people lived off the ample resources in the area. The first immigrants settled on the coast, but people gradually also occupied the interior. In the large rock art areas in Alta, groups from coast and inland met to practise religious rites and beliefs.
The rock carvings in Alta indicate that this was a religious meeting-place in the late Stone Age (4200-1800 BC) and early Metal Age (1800 BC). Various types of bear-hunting scenes are common among the oldest rock carvings, suggesting that the bear may have been viewed in a similar way 5,000-6,000 years ago as it was in the pre-Christian Sámi religion. The Sámi gods are presented as they are depicted on the Runebommen (magic drum). The exhibition also shows how, in the Sámi religion, nature was regarded as possessing a soul and being alive.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.