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Archaeology & History

Viking sunstones may have actually worked

By T.K. Randall
April 6, 2018 · Comment icon 6 comments



Did the Vikings use sunstones to reach Greenland ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Wolfmann
A mysterious form of navigation referenced in early Viking literature may have genuinely existed.
The Vikings were undeniably skilled seafarers, having traveled all the way to Greenland as well as to North America in the late 10th century. Without access to compasses to guide them however, these ancient Scandinavians needed to rely on alternative forms of navigation to cross the sea.

One navigational tool that was mentioned in several Viking sagas from the time was the 'sunstone' - an object that could ascertain the position of the Sun even through dense clouds or snow.

Once dismissed as a thing of legend, this mysterious stone is now believed to have been a genuine navigational tool made from a carbonate mineral known as calcite (or Icelandic spar).
Recent experiments have shown that when held up at just the right angle, this material can help to accurately pinpoint the location of the Sun even under cloudy or twilight conditions.

With it, Viking seafarers could have certainly made their way over 1,600 miles of sea to Greenland.

"Nobody knows whether the Vikings really used this method," wrote archaeologist Gabor Horvath.

"However, if they did, they could navigate with it precisely."

Source: Ars Technica | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Taun 5 years ago
I had always thought that the Norse use of sunstones was a settled issue...
Comment icon #2 Posted by DebDandelion 5 years ago
I have to ask. Boat that we see in pic or the stone navigator?†
Comment icon #3 Posted by Piney 5 years ago
The sun stone itself. I use a compass instead of a GPS and I think it would be interesting to toy with.†
Comment icon #4 Posted by Taun 5 years ago
That would be cool Piney... But I want to build a long ship, and put it on a nearby lake... Then my buddies and I can raid the picnicers and make off with their bar-b-q and beer... Our legal defense could be that we were just living according to our heritage (I'm sure theirs some "viking" blood in me somewhere...) (we wouldn't hurt anyone, though - we would use nerf weapons)
Comment icon #5 Posted by Piney 5 years ago
We did that with canoes on the Wading River as kids but we used Supersoakers.†
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ozfactor 5 years ago
like this† †


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