New Symbolism Noticed on Denmark’s “Sun Stones”
A total of 300 small stones believed to have been engraved with designs almost 5,000 years ago, have been discovered during an archaeological excavation on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea.
Discovery of 300 Stones Include Some with Unusual Adornments
A respectable amount of nearly 300 stones also known as “sun stones” because of their round shape and the circular carvings on their surface that appear to radiate out from the center, have been recently unearthed on Bornholm in Denmark. Archaeologists excavating at the site have also uncovered several square stones incised with something that resembles fields and grain, and other pieces carved with patterns. Some of them are adorned with spider webs as Science Nordic reported.
The latter are considered of particular archaeological interest, as they are a totally new discovery and experts are not yet sure about their usage, if they served a purpose rather than being purely decorative.
“That is the million-dollar question. We see sun motifs in other places, but the square-shaped stones with farming symbols are especially strange. It’s impossible to know precisely what they were used for,” Lars Larsson, professor emeritus at the University of Lund in Sweden, says as Science Nordic reports.
Several examples of field stones. The middle stone was found in 2014, and was the first known sun stone. The stone is interpreted as depicting an enclosed field. (Photo: Bornholms Museum)
Could they Be Personal Luck Charms?
According to archaeologists, the site where the discovery took place, called Vasagård, was an immense area split into two by a river valley that appears to have been used for rituals during the Stone Age. Experts suggest that the stones were most likely used during the rituals, based on their burnt and broken appearance. Additionally, the fact that they were discovered in concentrated deposits within the same layer of soil, makes archaeologists even more confident about their early conclusions.
Interestingly, some of the stones seem to have been used as lucky charms by Stone Age Bornholmers according to Finn Ole Sonne Nielsen, lead archaeologist at the Bornholm Museum, who has collaborated with the National Museum of Denmark, Aarhus University, and the University of Copenhagen, on the excavation. “Many of the sun stones and one of the field stones are very worn, so it looks as though someone has run around with them in their pocket,” he says as Science Nordic reports.
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Spiders web design on a stone with smooth worn edges. (Image: arkspedition2014vv)
The first sun stone was found in 1995 at another cultural site, Rispebjerg, about eight kilometers east of Vasagård. “We’ve known about sun stones for a while, but the field stones are something entirely new – just yesterday we found four – and the variation among them with spider webs is something we didn’t know existed. It gives us a new insight into life in the Stone Age,” Nielsen told Science Nordic.
During the Stone Age, Nielsen explains, Vasagård was entirely enclosed by a type of fence created from several layers of posts, with many entrances. Inside, stood small round “sun temples” which were probably used for rituals. “The construction has been renewed time and time again, and many tons of wood must have been used to maintain the gigantic monument. An “absolutely important” construction project. When you use so many resources on something, it must have something to do with religion,” he says as Science Nordic reported.
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Another Spider web design found at Vasagård. (Image: Bornholm Museum)
Life and Death Symbolisms
Dr. Larsson, however, is being skeptical and says that for someone to conclusively claim that they were only used in rituals doesn’t tell all the story about them, really. “It must mean something that they were deposited simultaneously after being burnt and broken. Perhaps it represents a transition between life and death,” he tells Science Nordic.
Indeed, fire played a very important role for Stone Age people who burnt many items, such as axes or animal bones. According to Larsson fire didn’t symbolize catastrophe in their minds though, but a transition, “A transition to the beyond is perhaps a way to bring objects from our world into the other world. We don’t know how the connection worked, but it has something to do with the gods or ancestors,” he said as Science Nordic reports. And added, “Stone Age people probably had an entirely different relationship to death and their ancestors than we do today, and death was considered as a natural part of life.”
The Hidden Secrets of the Sun Stones
What can we learn from these sun stones though? According to a 2016 study, archaeologist Flemming Kaul from the National Museum of Denmark argued why the square stones with corresponding square motifs portray fields. He noticed that on many of the stones, there is something adorned alongside the fields that looks like a plant covered with some kind of shade.
According to Kaul that could be a form of protection for grain in the field, as he considered that the stone could be used in rituals during harvest time or the solstices.
“I imagine that at a certain time of the year you had some magic rituals where you held a sun stone and let them pass over the stones, which by all accounts depict fields. The new stone opens up an entirely different understanding of the Stone Age worship of deities,” Kaul told Nordic Science.
He will continue to examine the stones until he gets to know even more about their hidden secrets.
Top image: The stones can fit in the palm of a hand or pocket. Pictured isone from a 2014 excavation. (Image: arkspedition2014vv)