I don’t think an explanation about what Thor’s Hammer is, is needed. For those of you who are interested in such matters, you probably already know what this deity’s hammer is all about. Anyway, summarizing (a lot) it is a symbol of both protection and fertility.
Now, this post is about the archaeological findings on the matter, so lets get to it. There have been thousands of amulets found throughout the places where the Norsemen have been. Amulets such as Thor’s Hammer – Mjölnir – which have intrigued archaeologists in why were those objects there and if these were in fact a representation of Thor’s Hammer from mythology or something else?
Not long ago archaeologists have unearthed a 10th century Thor’s Hammer (torshammere) in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, that could gives us a hint on how Thor’s legendary weapon influenced the Viking Age jewellery.
The latest find was a little unusual, due to the fact that it has runes inscribed on it that one might read ‘Hmar x is’ meaning ‘This is a Hammer’. It seems it was the amulet’s protective power that counted, and often we see Thor’s Hammer and Christian crosses appearing together, possibly providing double protection and during the process of christianization, because the old symbols of power and faith were not that easily discarted and kept by the recent converted populations.
The object is cast in bronze and has traces of silver or tin and gold plating. The fact that the person who made the hammer was literate is a source of fascination for archaeologists. There is a possible claim that the amulet could indicate that literacy was widespread among craftspeople. On the other hand, craftspeople could have simply copied the sketch of the person who ordered the work, obviously, but it’s quite possible that the knowledge of the runes and their meanings was something much more important and people knew exactly what they meant. The runes were not just alphabetical symbols, but also a part of the sipirtual practices, culture and tradition, so it’s very possible that the craftsman and other’s from the Viking society knew how to write and read the runes.
Now, back to the subject and to this specific finding, the runes in it range in height from 3 to 7mm, so it required precision to inscribe them onto the amulet. Viking craftsmen and blacksmiths are known to have been brilliant and skillful people on whatever they did. As well as the Thor’s Hammer that has been found, archaeologists also recovered fragments of silver needles and a mould for making brooches. These suggest that there may have been a workshop producing jewellery nearby.
This new discovery brings a new light into the knowledge we have about Viking Age society. It would seem that literacy could have been widespread throughout the Viking world, and craftsmen may have had an important role in it.