Danish archaeologists have solved the mystery over the significance of the Mjöllnir amulets worn by the Vikings. Indeed, they represented Thor’s hammer, the researchers said.
More than 1,000 intricately carved pendants shaped like hammers have been found across Northern Europe since the first millennium A.D.
Although it was widely believed these amulets were hammers, a debate remained over their true meaning. The objects’s unusual shape, featuring a short handle and a symmetrical head, raised doubts whether they represented something else entirely.
Now a 10th-century Viking amulet unearthed in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, has provided a definitive answer.
“Hmar x is,” runes inscribed on the tiny amulet stated. Translated into modern English, it reads: “This is a hammer.”
“This is the only hammer-shaped pendant with a runic inscription. And it tells us that (the pendants) in fact depict hammers,” Henrik Schilling, a spokeperson at the National Museum of Denmark, told Discovery News.
Cast in bronze, and likely plated with silver, tin and gold, the 1,100-year-old pendant shows that Thor’s myth deeply influenced Viking jewelry.
A warrior god of thunder, Thor appears throughout Norse mythology holding the powerful hammer Mjolnir, which he uses to protect Asgard, the celestial fortress of the gods, from giants.
It is now clear that Viking men and women wore Thor’s hammer for protection.
“It was the amulet’s protective power that counted,” Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark, said.
“Often we see torshammere (Thor’s hammer) and Christian crosses appearing together, providing double protection,” he added.
Featuring an interlacing ornament on one side of the hammer head and the short runic inscription on the other, the newly discovered Mjöllnir amulet was probably produced by a local craftsmen.
Fragments of silver needles and a mould for making brooches indicate that the jewelry was produced in a silversmith’s workshop on Lolland island.
He was a skilled artisan — the runes range in height from 3 to 7 mm, requiring great precision to inscribe them onto the object — but not a skilled writer.
According to the archaeologists, he left out the letter ‘a’ in the word hammer and reversed the S-rune.
Image: The rune-inscribed Mjöllnir amulet. Credit: National Museum of Denmark