My Little Norway

Discover the kingdom of the north

Rock Carvings at Tennes

Tennes is a small town in Balsfjord with a northern view of the Lyngen Alps. Even though it is in the middle of nowhere, Tennes has somehow always been a gathering place. The Vikings would meet and trade in this area and Tennes became the administrative centre when Balsfjord was declared a municipality in 1856.


It is obvious that this new status was largely due to the completion of the Balsfjord Church in Tennes the same year. (Back in those times you needed a church to be considered a town and a cathedral to earn city status.)

The Balsfjord Church still stands proud today and remains a gathering place for the locals. Travellers use the church as a marker to take a journey back in time, as Tennes is famous for its Stone Age rock carvings.

The discovery of the rock carvings in Tennes is a collective story. In 1799, Professor Martin Vahl from the Copenhagen University, the first botanist to travel to Northern Norway, found a stag-like figure carved in rock on a farm in Balsfjord. He jotted it down in his notes and carried on his merry way ‘discovering’ new plants.

It wasn’t until 1913 that employees at the Copenhagen Botanic Museum went through his notes and came across the drawing of a ‘rock carving’. Gustav Hallström took to the challenge to travel to Balsfjord to ‘re-discover’ (and claim) the first Scandinavian rock carving. With a little detective work, Hallström found himself at Tennes farm. The locals recognised the figure Professor Vahl had drawn and took Hallström to Bukkhammaren, the rock where the stag lay amongst five other animal figures. Just a few hundred meters away also laid the rock carvings of Gråbergan.

In 1938 Tordis Larsen heard some gossip about her farm at the local knitting circle. The priest’s wife had shown a mysterious old notebook depicting rock carvings on the Larsen’s property. Aware of the growing interest in rock carvings, Larsen set out to find them on her farm. She quickly found a large rock with 40 carvings in her Kirkely field. This was the largest, northernmost discovery of rock carvings in the world (until Alta, of course).

With ancient hunters and gatherers, Vikings, traders, discoverers, travellers, Christians, knitting circles and a municipality all coming together in this one little town, Tennes can truly claim to be one of Norway’s most popular meeting place.