Danish archeologists have unveiled a discovery that sheds new light on an age-old mystery, revealing how the hammer of Thor appeared to the vikings.
More than a thousand intricately made pendants, shaped like Thor's hammer, have been found across Europe. Historians have long debated the meaning and significance of the pendants, Discovery News notes. Although the amulets, known as "torshammere," are vaguely shaped like hammers, their symmetrical design and stout handles have led some to wonder if they are meant to represent something else entirely.
The discovery of a new pendant may have finally put the debate to rest, however. MailOnline reports that an amulet from the 10th century has been unearthed in Kobelev, on the Danish island of Lolland. The torshammere, which shares the same rough form as the many other hammer-shaped pendants, is unique in that it is intricately inscribed with a series of runes. The inscription reads "Hmar x is," which translates to "This is a hammer." Cast in bronze, the amulet shows traces of having been plated with silver, tin, and gold.
While the inscription seems to confirm that the amulets do indeed depict Thor's hammer, archeologists are particularly fascinated by the fact that the craftsman who made the hammer was literate. The discovery of this particular hammer has led some to postulate that literacy may have been widespread amongst skilled craftsmen in viking society. Tools for fashioning jewelry were also discovered nearby, which suggests to researchers that a workshop for producing the Thor's hammer amulets may have been located in the area.
The hammer of Thor, known as Mjolnir in viking mythology, was a powerful symbol, owing to its owner's province as the Norse god of thunder. "It was the amulet's protective power that counted," said Peter Pentz, an archaeologist who works at the National Museum of Denmark. "Often we see torshammere and Christian crosses appearing together, providing double protection."
In Norse mythology, the hammer was not just a weapon, but also played a role in religious rites, as well as formal ceremonies marking birth, marriage, and death. A fictionalized version of Thor has proved to be a popular character in Marvel's movie franchise, as The Inquisitr has reported, though the design of his hammer is distinctly different from the viking amulets.
Pentz related that he was grateful to the ancient rune-writer for the inscription that has put the debate over the amulets to rest. Though there are no plans to further excavate the viking site at Kobelev, the discovery of this particular torshammere has already revealed much about viking beliefs, and the significance of the hammer of Thor.