2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Loki's Hideout by Emil Doppler. In the foreground is the "World Serpent" Jormungand
During excavations on the island of Birka in Sweden, archaeologists discovered a small ornament made in the form of a dragon's head. This is reported by The Local. The authors of the find have not yet made statements about its dating and possible origin, but they mentioned that the shape of the decoration is characteristic of Birka.
Birka was the largest river port in ancient Sweden. Since this settlement is considered one of the oldest Swedish cities, an analysis of the origin of the find can provide important information about its early history. Professor Sven Kalmring, one of the leaders of the excavation, reported that the dragon's head was once attached to a pin, which is usually used for pinning clothes, but it has completely collapsed from time to time. After cleaning and formally describing the find, scientists hope to compare it with similar Scandinavian artifacts, for example, from the Danish island of Funen.
Left: A dragon head ornament found at Birka. Right: mold previously found in the same place.
The image of dragons played an important role in Scandinavian mythology, but the exact meaning of the symbolism in the form of a dragon's head has not reached us. The British called the Viking ships "Dragon-ships", in Germanic sources they were called "Drakkar". The exact etymology is unknown, but according to the most popular version, this name appeared thanks to the carved figures in the form of a dragon's head installed on the bow of the ship.
Probably, "dragon" symbols were used to intimidate the enemy during the pirate raids, for which the northern peoples were famous. In their mythology, there were several dragons at once: Nidhogg, eating one of the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil, Jormungand - "World Serpent", - the son of Loki and one of the main enemies of the god Thor, Fafnir - the son of the sorcerer Hreidmar, who took the form of a dragon.
Most often, dragons symbolized the power opposing the "good" gods, therefore it is believed that the dragon's head on the bow of the ship was a symbol of war. Finds like the decoration from Birka can provide new information about what the dragon meant to the peoples of the north, and whether it was really one of the main symbols of the Vikings, as is commonly believed in modern culture.