Viking Sunstone Found? Scientists Find Odd Stone in Shipwreck26 March, 2013 at 07:21 | Posted in Culture | Leave a comment
Tags: archaeology, Culture
Viking sunstone found? Researchers said they found what could be a sunstone, an object referenced in Viking legends to locate the sun.
Scientists have said that a crystal found in a 16th-century shipwreck in England could be the fabled Viking “sunstone” that was used by them to navigate 1,000 years ago.
The stone is made of a type of calcite called Iceland spar and is transparent, and polarizes light, researchers told AFP. The object was found in a shipwreck that was sent from England to France in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth but crashed off the island of Alderney in the English Channel.
The sunstone is said to possess powers that can find the sun despite cloud cover, darkness, and snow, according to Viking legend. Vikings are believed to have discovered North America hundreds of years before the arrival of Christopher Colombus in 1492. And these sunstones, or “sólarsteinn,” could have enabled Viking mariners to navigate during their civilization’s height between 900 and 1200 AD.
Recently, a diver spotted a precise cut stone that lied near the ship’s navigation equipment and brought it back to land where European suspected that the crystal might be made of calcite, according to Lizzie Wade of the Huffington Post.
Scientists said that the stone might have been a back up to magnetic compasses on board the 16th century ship, meaning that English sailors might have used them as well.
“Although easy to use, the magnetic compass was not always reliable in the 16th century, as most of the magnetic phenomena were not understood,” said the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, according to AFP. “As the magnetic compass on a ship can be perturbed for various reasons, the optical compass giving an absolute reference may be used when the Sun is hidden.”
According to History.com, the sustones are referenced in the Viking saga about the Norse hero Sigurd. In the legend, a king “grabbed a sunstone, looked at the sky and saw from where the light came, from which he guessed the position of the invisible sun,” according to the website.
Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou in 1967 posited that the sunstones might have been cordierite or Iceland spar, which were then pointed at the sky until light passing through it reached its brightest point. As a result, the Vikings could have located the Sun.