Archaeology news: Ancient viking slab warned of ‘ominous’ climate catastrophe


The Rok Stone, a Viking runestone erected in the ninth century in central Sweden, has proved that climate concern is not specific to the people of the 21st century. Researchers have been attempting to translate the 700 runes covering the slab, and now believe they have the answer. Experts from three universities in Sweden believe the slab was erected as a memorial to a man’s deceased son, and it talks about previous major cold snaps and how the person who wrote it is concerned about the future climate.

In the sixth century, global temperatures plummeted, with previous research suggesting this was a result of volcanic activity around the planet.

At the same time, it is believed a major solar storm occurred, creating long lasting auroras in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere.

The colder than usual temperatures and strange colours appearing in the skies led the person who wrote the runes that another climate catastrophe was on its way.

Experts wrote in their study: “The inscription deals with an anxiety triggered by a son’s death and the fear of a new climate crisis similar to the catastrophic one after 536 CE.”

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 scientists wrote: “The conflict between light and darkness, warmth and cold, life and death”.

Bo Graslund, professor in archaeology at Uppsala University, said: “Before the Rok runestone was erected, a number of events occurred which must have seemed extremely ominous: a powerful solar storm coloured the sky in dramatic shades of red, crop yields suffered from an extremely cold summer, and later a solar eclipse occurred just after sunrise.

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“Even one of these events would have been enough to raise fears of another Fimbulwinter.”

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Experts called on scientists of many different backgrounds, including those who studied history, archaeology and religion.

Per Holmberg, professor in Swedish at the University of Gothenburg, who led the study, explained: “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 Rök runestone.”



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