Is This Proof Scandanavian Amulets Are Thor’s Hammer?

Mårten Eskil Winge's painting Thor’s Fight With the Giants. (Image: Wikimedia public domain)
Mårten Eskil Winge's painting Thor’s Fight With the Giants. (Image: Wikimedia public domain)

On the Danish Island of Lolland, a small hammer that dates back to the 10th century was found. There have been over 1000 of these amulets found over Northern Europe, but this is the only one that has a runic inscription.

In Norse mythology, Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) protected Asgard (the home of the gods) from giants. Viking men and women wore Thor’s hammer in the belief it give them protection.

“It was the amulet’s protective power that counted, and often we see torshammere and Christian crosses appearing together, providing double protection,” said Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark.

Both sides of the (runes on left hand).  Image: National Museum of Denmar

Both sides of the hammer (runes on L). (Image: National Museum of Denmark)

For years, researchers have not been able to agree whether the amulets, known as “torshammere,” were a representation of Thor’s hammer or something else. Some researchers believed that the hammer would not have had a symmetrical head, and others believed the shaft was too short. But now with this new find, the debate could be put to rest, because the runic inscription clearly reads: “Hmar is” (“This is a hammer”).

This video from the National Museum of Denmark shows and explains the hammer.

The hammer was cast in bronze, and has traces of silver or tin plating, along with gold plating.

Pentz is grateful to the unknown rune writer who has at last confirmed the amulets actually depict Thor’s hammer.

Amulet with runic inscription.  Image National Museum of Denmark

Amulet with runic inscription. (Image National Museum of Denmark)

The person who inscribed the runes was not a skilled writer, as the spelling should have been Hamar. And the S-rune was reversed. The archaeologists are fascinated that the person who made the hammer was literate, which shows that literacy may have been more widespread among craftspeople than originally thought.

Illustration of hammer and runic text. (Image National Museum of Denmark)

The small Thor’s hammer from Købelev has an interlacing ornament on one side of the hammer head and the short runic inscription on the other. The runes range in height from 3 to 7 mm, so it required precision to inscribe them onto the object. It took some time to comprehend the actual meaning of the inscription, partly because the runes are so small, partly due to surface corrosion on the 1100-year-old amulet, and also because of the imperfect runic inscription itself, said Past Horizons on their website.

It is amazing that they managed to find something so small, and it must have taken a lot of skill to write on something so small without the aid of a magnifying glass.

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