End of the world: Ancient Viking slab decoding warns of ‘civilisation’s doomsday’ | World | News


The Rok runestone is one of the most famous ancient slabs in the world and is considered to be the first piece of written Swedish literature. Dating back to the year 800, the five-tonne stone stands at eight feet tall and was found in the 19th century with 28 lines of runic inscriptions. While scholars have generally agreed on how to read the carvings, the exact meaning of the runic characters and cryptic passages has been up for debate.

But, researchers in Sweden think it could be a doomsday warning.

Their study, published in the journal ‘Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies’, concluded that the passage is about anxiety triggered by a son’s death and fears of a new cold climate crisis.

The study was based on archaeological research on a cold climate catastrophe from the years 536 to 550, which affected Scandinavia.

The crisis took hold after a series of volcanic events and led to lower average temperatures, crop failures, hunger and mass extinctions.

It is estimated that the population of the Scandinavian Peninsula fell by 50 percent or more.

Per Holmberg, a professor in Swedish at the University of Gothenburg, said in January: “The key to unlocking the inscription was the interdisciplinary approach.

“Without these collaborations between textual analysis, archaeology, history of religions and runology, it would have been impossible to solve the riddles of the Rok runestone.”

Passages on the slab refer to battles which lasted for hundreds of years, but the scientists believe this could have been a metaphor for the climate.

The experts believe the situation was carved into the rock by a Viking chieftain called Yarin, who commissioned the stone in honour of his son, Vamoth, to be passed down through generations.

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Dr Graslund was referring to ‘The Great Winter’ in Norse mythology, which would mark the coming of Ragnarok – a series of events that was believed to lead to the end of civilisation.

Olof Sundqvist, a professor in History of Religions at Stockholm University, explained that the Viking saw it necessary to warn of what was to come.

He said: “The powerful elite of the Viking Age saw themselves as guarantors for good harvests.

“They were the leaders of the cult that held together with the fragile balance between light and darkness.

“And finally at Ragnarok, they would fight alongside the god Odin in the final battle for the light.”

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