New archaeological findings suggest that the Vikings considered Stone Age objects to have magical qualities, and that such “antiques” were more important in Viking culture than previously understood.
Examinations of around 10 Viking graves found in Rogaland, southwest Norway, revealed Stone Age items, such as weapons, amulets and tools. Olle Hemdorff of the Archaelogical Museum in Stavanger told newspaper Aftenposten that he believes the items were buried so that “they would protect and bring luck to the dead in the after-life.”
The latest revelations are linked to discoveries from Vikings who had travelled to Iceland, and who have been found carrying Stone Age items with them. Previously, such findings were not considered to be significant, but recent analysis links them to similar, earlier-overlooked evidence from several locations over the former Viking lands.
As well as being buried with the dead, as were some of their ships, Stone Age arrowheads and daggers were sometimes buried under Viking houses. Hemdorff suggests that “by including objects from their ancestors, the Vikings legitimized and gained ‘control’ over the past.”
The custom of burying Stone Age treasures has also been identified in Iron Age communities and excavations from the age of migration (400-600 BC) found in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Indeed, the practice is mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where it is stated that flint, pottery, round stones and shards are thrown into Ophelia’s grave.
Hemdorff speculates that Shakespeare “probably built his own description on an old custom that we now know goes back to Viking times.”