Since the Rock Art of Alta engravings were discovered in 1966, over 6000 rock carvings have been found on 45 panels (rock platforms) around the Alta Fjord. The earliest carvings dated to around 6000-7000 BC, and the most recent about 500 BC. The rock carvings constitute the most important piece of evidence supporting the existence of human activity in the confines of the Great North during the prehistoric period. More rock art made by hunter-gatherers is found in Alta than anywhere else in northern Europe, suggesting that for thousands of years Alta was an important meeting place far north of the Arctic Circle. Alta’s rock carvings were most likey made using quartzite chisels driven by hammers made from harder rocks; examples of chisels have been found throughout the area and are on display in Alta Museum. Use of rock chisels seems to have continued even after metal tools came into use in the area. Although many of the carvings are pigmented, this is not natural: some of the older carvings were painted red in the 1970s to make them more visible. This process is now being reversed to preserve the authenticity of the art.
The largest site, Hjemmeluft (about 5 kilometres from Alta) contains thousands of individual carvings which are publicly accessible. This site, along with four others (Storsteinen, Kåfjord, Amtmannsnes and Transfarelv) was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites on 3 December 1985 and is Norway’s only prehistoric World Heritage Site. (Many additional sites have been discovered and added since the UNESCO listing.) The Hjemmeluft site is located around Jiepmaluokta, a bay on the southwestern edge of the town of Alta. A walkway with interpretative signage passes multiple panels with rock carvings.
Another large panel a bit further along the walkway is Bergbukten 4B, which also depicts hunting scenes (on land and sea) and features large herds of elk and reindeer.
Bergbukten 3A depicts a number of boats (as well as elk and reindeer).
The rock carvings at Hjemmeluft can be accessed via a wooden walkway from May to September, while the Alta Museum and World Heritage Rock Art Centre is open year-round.