Stora Hammars

The Stora Hammars stones are four picture stones present in Stora Hammars in the parish of Lärbro, on the island of Gotland, Sweden.

Two of the stones are completely eroded. Only one of the remaining two is well preserved.

Stone I

This stone, Stone I, is notable for a scene, dubbed the “burial scene”, featuring a figure armed with a spear assumed to be Odin standing over a man lying face down on table or altar. Immediately above the lying man is a “valknut” symbol. To the right of this pair of figures are a body of fighting men with weapons raised. Of these warriors the foremost is holding a large bird before him. While another bird flies above the valknut . To the left of the valknut is assumed to be a depiction of a sacrificial hanging from a tree. Though I don’t see it myself.

Stora Hammars Stone I – “Burial Scene”

Above this scene is a scene showing two men with arms raised beside whom two swords are thrust into the ground. Behind the men is a horse bound to a post.

Stora Hammars Stone I – “Thing” Scene

Below the “burial scene” is a depiction of a woman standing between two groups of antagonistic warriors with weapons raised, the leftmost group arriving by longship. Scholars believe this to be a reference to the legend of the valkyrie Hildr. Possibly it is a just a more general reference to valkyries.

Stora Hammars Stone I – “Hildr” Scene

The scene below the Hildr scene is of a battle in the midst of which a horse tramples a man. Above the horse a raven or hawk flies.

Stora Hammars Stone I – Battle Scene

The lowest and largest panel simply depicts a longship sailing.

Stora Hammars Stone I – Sailing Longship Scene

Interpretation

By stringing these scenes together I believe it may be that the stone commemorates a successful raid. In the uppermost scene the protagonists are debating, possibly at a Thing, the case for the raid. In the “valknut” scene they are offering a sacrifice to Odin for good fortune in the raid. The next scene depicts them arriving by sea to meet their foes. Following that is the battle and then finally the return home.

Stora Hammars Stone I

Stone III

“Stone III” is the next best preserved of the four stones though it is still quite well worn making the scenes quite hard to discern. It has four scenes, the first scene shows a four legged animal beside a man like figure. The second shows a large bird, a woman holding a cup and a man brandishing a blade.
Scholars believe this scene depicts Odin’s adventure stealing the mead of poetry. The bird would represent Odin transformed into an eagle, the man with the blade would be Suttungr and the woman would be his daughter Gunnlöð carrying the mead of poetry. The next scene shows a man riding a horse approaching a standing woman. Finally the last scene depicts a longship.

Stone III

Related reading: Gotland’s Picture Stones – Bearers of an Enigmatic Legacy

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