Incised stone sun discs found during Danish island excavations

Stone sun disc found during the April survey by students from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw. Image: Marta Bura

Stone sun disc found during the April survey by students from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw. Image: Marta Bura

Evidence of the beliefs and rituals of the inhabitants of the Danish island of Bornholm (Baltic Sea) over 5,500 years ago, have been discovered by Warsaw University archaeologists during excavations in Vasagard.

The research project is the result of several years of collaboration between the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw and Bornholms Museum. This year also included students from the University of Copenhagen.

Sun worship

The study site – Vasagard, is a puzzling one, but is thought to be a temple for Sun worship. During this season of excavations, archaeologists have discovered several ditches, in which, in their opinion, bodies of the deceased were placed to be decomposed. Then the bones were transferred to proper burial chambers.

In the ditches we find large amounts of pottery, animal bones and damaged stone sun discs. The function of the latter has not been fully explained yet” said Janusz Janowski, head of the Polish expedition.

Pebble incised with sun rays. Image: Marta Bura

Pebble incised with sun rays. Image: Marta Bura

Sun discs are small pebbles or stones which were shaped, and images of sun rays carved on one side. Similar finds have already been discovered in nearby Rispebjerg, which served as a sun temple. Those discovered by the Polish-Danish team were mostly burnt and often deliberately broken, possibly in connection with performed rituals.

Laser scanning

In addition to the excavations, we document the monuments with 3D laser scanning technology – this includes sun discs and tombs found at the site: box and passage tomb from different periods. These finds indicate that human activity at the site continued for hundreds of years” – said Marta Bura, head of the 3D Scanners Lab at IA UW.

PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland