A strange boat-shaped rock has been discovered in a ‘satanic’ Icelandic cave and Vikings likely used it to ward off the apocalypse 1,100 years ago, study suggests.
The discovery is in a cave near a volcano that erupted almost 1,100 years ago at a time when the Vikings had recently colonised Iceland.
Within the cave there was a boat-shaped structure made from stone and a series of trade goods from the middle east, likely placed to try and avert Ragnarok, an end-times event where the world would be engulfed in flames.
Lead author Kevin Smith from Brown University said the eruption of the volcano would have been ‘unsettling’ and posing existential challenges to the new arrivals.
Even after Christianity became dominant in Iceland, people associated the cave with the end of the world, according to the study authors, who said the historical record records it as ‘the place where Satan would emerge on Judgment Day.’
A strange boat-shaped rock has been discovered in an Icelandic cave and Vikings likely used it to ward off the apocalypse 1,100 years ago, study suggests
The discovery is in a cave near a volcano that erupted almost 1,100 years ago at a time when the Vikings had recently colonised Iceland
Surtshellir Cave: The doorway to the end of the world in Iceland
Surtshellir Cave is a lava cave in western Iceland situated about 35 miles from Borgames.
The cave is about a mile long and was the first known lava tube in the world.
Iceland’s Viking Age settlers maintained a ritual site inside Surtshellir for more than 80 years.
Vikings created a boat-shaped structure out of stone in the cave that would have been used for rituals. .
Surtshellir was abandoned within a generation after Iceland’s conversion to Christianity.
The researchers found that as the lava from the eruption began to cool, the Vikings entered the cave and constructed the ‘boat-shaped structure’.
Once complete they would have burned animal bones in sacrifice, including those from sheep, goat, cattle and pigs.
The Vikings may have done this to try to avert another eruption, or what they may have perceived as signs of Ragnarök.
As well as the boat shaped formation made from rock there were ‘trade goods’ inside the cave.
Archaeologists from Brown University found 63 beads inside the cave, including three from Iraq.
Smith, who is chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum at Brown University lead the excavation.
During the the work Smith and colleagues found a mineral from Turkey called orpiment alongside the beads.
This mineral was used to decorate objects such as beads and other items, however very few examples of it have been found in Scandinavia.
They were all found within Surtshellir Cave, which is 30ft below the Hullmundarhraun lava field.
Surtshellir Cave is a lava cave in western Iceland situated about 35 miles from Borgames
This lava field is situated in Western Iceland, about 40 miles from the settlement of Borgames.
Smith said finding this unusual mineral inside the cave was a ‘great shock’ as it is rarely discovered in Scandinavian nations and is rare.
The reason why such rare minerals and goods travelled so far to be in an Icelandic cave, but it is thought they could indicate previously unknown trade routes.
The researchers found that as the lava from the eruption began to cool, the Vikings entered the cave and constructed the ‘boat-shaped structure’
About 100 years after the boat was created the people of Iceland converted to Christianity and this is the time they also stopped placing objects in the cave
Historical records have shown that the Vikings associated the cave with Surtr, a Norse giant who would cause the events leading up to Ragnarok.
‘The world would end when Surtr, an elemental being present at the world’s creation, would kill the last of the gods in the battle of Ragnarök and then engulf the world in flames,” the authors wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Archaeologists from Brown University found 63 beads inside the cave, including three from Iraq
Study authors predict the rare middle eastern goods may also have been placed in the cave to appease Surtr in a bid to stop him from destroying the world, or maybe even to strength Freyr, the fertility god who fought Surtr according to mythology.
About 100 years after the boat was created the people of Iceland converted to Christianity and this is the time they also stopped placing objects in the cave.
The last items deposited inside the boat-shaped stone was a set of scale weights, including ‘one in the form of a Christian cross,’ the team said.
The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
RAGNAROK: THE START OF THE END DAYS IN NORSE MYTHOLOGY
In Norse mythology Ragnarok is the events that lead to the end days. It will include a battle that will kill the gods and engulf Earth in flames.
It has been the subject of many books, discourses, movies and poems over the course of history.
The event would be a cataclysmic destruction, taking out the universe and everything within it, according to mythology.
For Vikings it was a foretelling of what was to come at some point in the future, influencing how they saw the world.
The word comes from Old Norse meaning fate of the gods and under the mythology it would see the demise of gods like Odin, Thor and Loki.