Mar
07
2013

Vikings' 'mythical' sunstones might actually be real

Good day sunshine: Scientists have found a sunstone on a sunken ship, similar to the devices believed to help Vikings navigate the seas on cloudy days.
Good day sunshine: Scientists have found a sunstone on a sunken ship, similar to the devices believed to help Vikings navigate the seas on cloudy days.Courtesy ArniEin
One legend connected to the Nordic Vikings got a strong jolt of reality with the discovery of a possible "sunstone" on a shipwreck off of Great Britain. Viking lore claimed that the sailors used such a stone to determine the position of the sun, even on cloudy days or when the sun had dropped below the horizon.

The stone is an Icelandic spar about the size of a pack of cigarettes that has a crystal appearance. Due to its shape and material, the sunstone can diffract light into two distinct rays which can be used to determine the position of the sun. This particular stone was found on a ship that sank in 1592 and was found close to other navigational equipment. The theory is that the stone would have been used as a back-up to a conventional compass on the more modern ship.

Why have no Viking sunstones been found? The strongest theory is that the stones were shattered in the cremation rituals given to dead Vikings. Researchers will now be able to tinker with the newly found sunstone to learn more about how Vikings possibly used them.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

AMM's picture
AMM says:

There is this new show on the history channel called "Vikings." It's an awesome show and it talks a bit about the sunstone based on how the vikings viewed it.

posted on Sat, 03/09/2013 - 7:38pm

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