Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site
Friday, 8 March 2013
First evidence of Viking-like 'sunstone' pulled from shipwreck
Researchers say this crystal found at the Alderney shipwreck near the Channel Islands could prove that fabled Viking sunstones really did exist.
Ancient lore has suggested that the Vikings used special crystals to find their way under less-than-sunny skies. Though none of these so-called "sunstones" has ever been found at Viking archaeological sites, a crystal uncovered in a British shipwreck could help prove they did indeed exist.
The crystal was found in the wreckage of the Alderney, an Elizabethan warship that sank near the Channel Islands in 1592. The stone was discovered less than 3 feet (1 meter) from a pair of navigation dividers, suggesting it may have been kept with the ship's other navigational tools, according to the research team headed by scientists at the University of Rennes in France.
A chemical analysis confirmed that the stone was Icelandic Spar, or calcite crystal, believed to be the Vikings' mineral of choice for theirfabled sunstones, mentioned in the 13th-century Viking saga of Saint Olaf.