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Cave Paintings in Refsvika

In the mid 1980's a group of archaeology students were in Refsvika working on an assignment for the Economic Maps Department. It was fine, summer weather and they were inside the 50 metre tall, 12 metre wide and 115 metre deep Refsvikhula Cave.

There was great astonishment among those present when, in the light from the torches, red matchstick men appeared quite clearly on the walls of the cave. Even the local inhabitants thought it strange that nobody had ever noticed the figures before.

People had been living in Refsvika right up until the 1950's. They had often been in the cave, or Kollhellaren as they called it.

The children used to play there, and if the weather was stormy during the summer, the cows would seek shelter there. Consequently, the women often sat, nice and dry, milking their cow
s in Kollhellaren Cave, yet nobody ever actually noticed the 21 red-painted matchstick men who are about 30-40 centimetres tall and can be found at three different places in the cave.

Where the Light Meets the Dark

The matchstick men were painted about 3,000 years ago with paint made from a red powder, probably from the iron oxide that can be found in the cave. They were painted where the cave branches off in three directions, in the darkest parts, where "life meets death".

This might mean that the caves were used during ritual or religious activities. In mid-summer, the Midnight Sun fills the cave with a yellowish light. Could this have been the light by which the Stone Age people performed their rituals?

In the cave known as "Helvete" (Eng. = Hell) on the islet of Trenyken in Røst, similar painted figures have been found, and recently, 8 drawings of human forms were found in a large cave at Sanden in Værøy. Similar finds at several different places may be a sign of strong religious bonds in the area.

The cave paintings in the Refsvikhula Cave, or Kollhellaren, are the Borough of Moskenes' contribution to the ancient monument project "Footsteps in the north. A Guide to the History of North Norway and Namdalen."

This page is from the tourist information i Flakstad and Moskenes.

Contakt the tourist information for trips to the cave. It is forbidden to visit the cave without guide.

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