For hundreds of years, a previously unknown farmstead in southern Iceland has been home to a rare, coin-sized soapstone amulet believed to have been made in resemblance to Norse god Thor’s magic hammer.
Along with four other undated items, the hammer was found on a Viking-era farmstead in south Iceland’s Þjórsárdalur valley. According to a Facebook post, archaeologists with the Institute of Archaeology have named the ancient farmstead Bergsstaðir and believe it dates back to around 900 years. The team was first clued into the find by local resident Bergur Þór Björnsson. He says he decided to take a hint from his great-grandfather, who found several of the last-known Viking era farms in 1920, and start poking around the site.
The hammer and other items, which include a whetstone, an iron pick, and a buckle, were found in loose soil. The archaeological team says they also found rock that appears to have been the foundation for a cabin, as well as ash, burned bones, and evidence of early iron-working, indicating metal forgery was active in the area. This is of particular interest considering Iceland does not have iron ore deposits.
"There is a lot of this up here on the slope. And it is very likely that there was ironwork to some extent and even construction, ironworks,” archaeologist Garðar Guðmundsson told RUV. It’s possible Vikings and early settlers produced iron from nearby bogs, but researchers need to further study the area to determine if that’s the case.
The hammer is believed to have been worn as a protective amulet around the neck. It’s only the second hammer found in Iceland and the first to have been carved from stone. Thor was one of the most prominent gods in Norse mythology and was central across religious sects of Germanic people before the spread of Christianity, from Norway to the United Kingdom. His mission was to protect people from evil and he used his hammer Mjöllnir to do so. Evidence of his influence has been found in prehistoric “thunderstones” found in other Scandinavian archaeological sites. These were believed to have been intentionally placed in graves as good-luck talismans to keep lightning away.
The hammer and other artifacts are in route to Reykjavík for further research.