A chance discovery on the tiny Danish island of Bornholm could reveal that ancient Scandinavian people engaged in magic rituals designed to bring about plentiful harvests. According to Danish English-language news outlet Copenhagen Post, Danish archaeology students were excavating a Neolithic site at Vasagård when they came across a mysterious stone disc with strange designs carved into the surface unlike the designs on any previously known artifacts. The stone was turned over to archaeological researchers from the National Museum of Denmark, who dated it to between 2900-2700 BC.
The stone could turn out to be the world’s oldest map, if current theories are confirmed. The lines and patterns on the stone’s surface are believed to depict fields, crops, and possibly even fences. According to archaeologist Flemming Kaul, curator and senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, these map stones could have been used in conjunction with other stones in magic rituals designed to bring bountiful harvests:
They could have passed the sun images over the small field images in order to enhance some magic, which could give the sun more light, for example, such as in the spring, when the sun should give more light so that crops can grow. […] Often when ritual objects have had a certain life cycle, then they are deposited at a sacred place, perhaps also to enhance the magic of the ritual which has just been performed with them.
Hundreds of other stones have been found in the same excavation site, but almost all of them are so-called “Sunstones.” These stones are typically etched with circles emitting radiating lines, thought to be depictions of the Sun.
Researchers believe these Sunstones indicate the presence of a Neolithic sun-worshipping religion in the area. Similar etched stones from the same time period have been found throughout Europe, indicating that sun worship might have been widespread among Neolithic European peoples.