Tombstones 400- 600 AD Gotland 1

The tombstones on Gotland are unique in Scandinavia. The island was like a free trade zone and still it belongs to the Eril culture. The treasure from Havor with neckring and 26 golden bracts ties it to the Eril culture. Most of the silver denars ended here.

Picture stone. symbol stone, Gotland, Havor, the Pearl, fighting stallions, Kivik, running spiral, Thera, farman, Lochlin

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Gotland and Auland are fortunes for archaeologists since there are very many remains on a small area. Even climate favours archaeologists. Traders favoured islands as base for their trade since it was easier to defend and protect the goods at least when the enemy was normal pirates. However generalising from these places is hazardous since we can not be sure that we get the whole picture.

It is only on Gotland we have this kind of tombstones and there is around 12 good left from the period 400 - 600 AD. I prefer to call these "icon/ symbol stones". The other period 700 - 900 AD contends around 20 good out of several hundred "picture stones" with motifs we know partly from the Edda literature.

The motifs on the symbol stones are the same as on the golden bracts with small fragments of their World Order. We could also call them "icon stones" since the symbols are icons for important things in their worldview. In these two categories we also see a clear occasional jump in style from symbols to pictures. The rune stones were much a jump back to pure symbolism

Havor II South Gotland were found as cover stone on grave Maestermyr 15 cm

In its simple but precise elegance it shows that some people could afford to pay for a stone like this. The find is nearby the fortification Havor from where we have the treasure of vine service and a golden neckring.

The spiral ornament is heritage since Bronze Age. Vertically there are waves that could be sea snakes as well and they were used even in next period. On the shield in the middle there is the same symbol as on the reverse of the gold medal from Lyngby Randers at Jutland. It symbolises the four sun year quarters (nowadays it is the signpost for "ancient monument") On the averse there are the entwined snakes symbolising nature of life.

Here the battling snakes of life with the Pearl that is the battle-apple is under the shield that represent four seasons according to the sun year. We see the pearl in many ornaments and it easy to overlook.

Havor I this they found near Maestermyr's grave field ca 100 cm

Here we have the snakes again, but there are also the fighting stallions. That must have been peoples' joy since Bronze Age as we see on the picture stones in the Kivik grave from ca 1400 BC. Maybe it symbolises also the noble fight of the dead.

They have surely got the inspiration to the shield from Greece where they saw it in official art and with roots in Bronze Age too. Others nations got inspired too as for instance in Leon Spain they have this motif on a grave. The snakes could be the year or season symbols and so could the horses

Greek stater with Pegasus that was used as fix stars of spring equinox and lastly at Danish coins in early 11th century

The shape of these stones associates to the blade of an axe. In the symbolism the axe protected with the edge so this is directed upward and should protect the grave. In Scandinavian language we have a lot of expressions with high age as for instance "skaera" that means you "cut out" a space and sanctify it. It could be a grave as well as a piece of land you got the right to. The symbolism is more than 5000 years old, I think.

Stone from Bro six miles NE Visby 188 cm

On top the "running spiral" that symbolises alternating seasons. Under the spiral shield are two more shields. But let us magnify:

Then we see that maybe the right shield has an octopus, while the left symbolises running time and fellowship, I guess, since double spirals in pair symbolises brotherhood.

The ship also associates to the Kivik grave. Note the clinker building. This type of ship we see on several of the symbol stones and on a sole double-sided stone from Uppland with fighting stallions on the other.

To think of Thera in the Aegean Sea is easy this is just one size from a big fresco

We still use the expression "last trip" and associate maybe to a time when at least some people buried people in a boat. Some put the corpse on the boat and set into fire and let it disappear in the sea. For sailors it would have been natural to think about the last trip. It also told that that buried was a sailor and farman. That is the local word on Gotland for traders.

IN Celtic myth the "happy islands of Lochlin were somewhere in the West. But other poets thought it was in Scandinavia and they tell about (red) Finn Lochlin perhaps in Norway and (black) Dub Lochlin in south maybe Skaane and the Danish isles. But from known age the black where in Skaane and the white at Zealand. However in the long time span poets mix things.

Taken all together the symbolism in all art including the tombstones have deep roots in Bronze Age. We see the formalism of old traditions that have settled in time. Maybe it was forbidden to make real pictures and only iconic pictures were allowed as for instance the Sunking. It is much the same we see in Egypt with the same rule for thousands of years.

The difference between Roman and Nordic symbolism was not so big if we see to the basic patterns. In both cultures the astro-symbolism and calendar were the base even in last millennium BC. The Head / ANSUR was symbol for the leader and older than Roman times. The Horse was Pegasus in most place with exception the Stag used by Friisians.

The swastika is at least 5000 years old and it is seen in rock-carvings however they mostly used the crossed circle. Bullhorns we se in last millennium on rock-carving but also on some early Roman Emperors. It is hard to say how much they really borrowed from Rome. Only the clear emperor portraits and roman texts are clear loans. Often the art is pan-human since people in those days lived in the homogenous rural culture with small differences in Europe.

On these symbol stones we feel the old culture. Next period we at once see the difference in style because the stones have the penis shape and the pictures tells about the sagas they maybe "wrote" in Rhineland during the Roman Age.

continues