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Over 200 Oath Rings Just Discovered in Sweden

Pictured: Oath Rings
Image from SVT Nyheter: Stockholm

A previously unknown ritual site, containing around 200 “amulettringar”/oath rings, has been found in Hjulsta, near Stockholm, Sweden, during an archaeological examination of the area. The rings are thought to be from the 7th and 8th centuries CE, though finds of bronze and flint objects suggest the site have been in use for at least 1500 years before this, and vary in size from 5 to 15 cm (approx. 2 to 6 inches). It’s the largest find of its kind and considered unique.

The iron rings – found in graves, post-holes, temples and other ritual sites etc. – often have small axes, hammers, sickles, staff-like objects and one find has a pair of shears hanging from them, and some of the rings themselves are in the shape of fire steels (Or fire strikers). Archaeologist Ingela Harrysson, who is in charge of the dig, says the rings have no apparent practical use and should be understood as ritual objects. She goes on to explain that they may have been used in religious celebrations, such as when planting crops.

Ross Alexander Downing, Researcher at the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for Nordic Studies
Ross Alexander Downing, Researcher at the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for Nordic Studies

To find out more HHH asked Ross Downing, a scholar of Old Norse Religion at the UHI Centre For Nordic Studies. Downing explains that these smaller rings are generally understood to be miniature versions of the larger rings that were nailed to temple doors. The larger counterparts that have been discovered on Temple doors were sometimes mistaken for door handles, but as the same kind of rings have also been found inside the temple buildings, sometimes nailed to pillars, Downing says it’s probable that their purpose is symbolic rather than practical. He suggests that the smaller versions may have served a similar purpose as the small “travel altars” used by some Christian priests during that period; drawing on the power of temple/church objects when performing rituals away from home.

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