Skip to comments.Crystal Amulet Poses Question On Early Christianity (Denmark - 100AD)
Posted on 03/09/2007 11:37:30 AM PST by blam
9 March 2007
Crystal amulet poses question on early Christianity
An overlooked crystal amulet in the National Museum suggests new understandings about Christianity's origins in Denmark
King Harold Bluetooth brought Christianity to Denmark roughly 1100 years ago. At least that's what he declared on the Jelling Stone located in Jutland:
'King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.'
A tiny crystal amulet in the National Museum's archives suggests something quite different though, that maybe Christianity arrived in Denmark six centuries earlier than previously believed.
In 1820, a farmer found the crystal amulet in the grave of a noblewoman on the island of Funen. Together with coins and other items in the grave, archaeologists were able to date the grave to about 300 AD.
For nearly two hundred years, the amulet and other articles had been on display in the National Museum.
As part of major project to reorganise the museum's collection, however, Peter Pentz, a curator and archaeologist at the National Museum, examined the 3cm sphere of crystal and noticed that it was unlike anything found in Denmark.
Upon closer inspection, he noticed what seemed to be an upside arrow. Drawing upon his knowledge of early Christian imagery, Pentz began to wonder: could this arrow in actuality be an anchor? A sign used by early Christians?
Pentz discovered another etching on the amulet - the word ABLATHANALBA. Such a word was believed to have mystical powers in early Christian ceremonies, suggesting that its owner had a connection to early Christian beliefs.
Pentz explained that his past studies in Rome's catacombs enabled him to see the amulet in a different light.
'I'm familiar with early Christian imagery,' Pentz told Politiken newspaper. 'As I studied the ball, I recognised the connection.'
First Christian Dane
The crystal amulet says important things about the woman buried in the 4th century, at a time when Denmark was still largely populated by pagans who worshipped Thor.
But was she a Christian?
Pentz thinks it's possible. She was most likely not the typical porridge eating woman who slaved every day to carry water from the nearby well. Instead, she was of a higher class and probably wore woollen textiles dyed in strong colours.
'She could have come from south eastern Europe and been married into an aristocratic Danish family,' said Pentz.
He admits that his hypothesis takes him out on a limb. The tiny crystal ball could have changed hands many times. And maybe it belonged to somebody else and was merely placed in her grave to help her on her journey in the after world.
Factors nevertheless suggested the woman subscribed to an early Christian worldview with all the mysticism and talismans that included.
The residents of Funen, for example, had ties to the Black Sea and Balkans where many people converted to Christianity early on. As far back as 100AD, people in that region were becoming Christianised. By the 4th century, many Christians populated the area.
Travelling from Denmark to the region was a long journey at the time, but the residents of Funen were more adventurous than residents of Zealand.
So the chance exists that some form of trade existed between the two regions. And that a woman prescribing to an early Christian faith could have come to Denmark long before Harold Bluetooth took credit for converting the Danes to Christianity.
Denmark-Ahead of it's time.
I'm sorry, I must have dropped it there...
Another possible explanation is trade goods. There were well established trade routes between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe quite early on. Even without direct trade, goods passed from hand to hand to hand and wound up in odd corners.
It makes just as much sense for a well-born woman to receive a play-pretty from the traders as it does that she was a believer . . .
I thought I could get the connection... but I use verizon and its disabled.
Me thinks its great, but a little over excited combination of apples and oranges.
One is a set of historical events which marked the growth and advance of Christianity in Denmark, which, in myths, might give Harold Bluetooth more credit that he deserves. But I think the history would credit the era of Harold as marking the beginning of that large-scale religious conversion process, with or without the myths related to it.
While the artifact represents a single individual, who lived among an unknown group of individuals, of an unknown number and with unknown actual religious sentiments. I don't think that one artifact can alter the history of the general introduction of Christianity to Denmark.
Those Vikings, they got around:
Buddha statue from 6th c found in Viking hoard in Helgo, Sweden
Biblical Archaeology Review | March/April 2005 | "Worldwide" editor
Posted on 04/26/2005 11:26:07 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
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I can't find anything about crystal amulets in the the gospels of the new testament, I must be missing some pages....
The Swedes are Buddhists? I never knew that.
This could be a viking traders wife. She could have come from the Mediterranean, Britian, someplace like that.
One of many benefits of spending most of my junior high/high school years in Israel.
I thought it was Hardrada - Hard Counsel. But maybe that's my Anglo-Saxon talking.
That was basically my reaction to it as well. While the possibility of Christians arriving early in Denmark is interesting and possibly of historic significance, that doesn't automatically displace the significance of later events, at least not without additional information to demonstrate historical continuity between this find and later Danish Christianity. There were cases of Christianity appearing early in a region but not really taking root among the general populace until later. I think maybe the author of the article exaggerated the implications of the find for the sake of making the lead sound more exciting, which seems to happen a lot with archaeology articles: everyone wants to announce the discovery of the "first" something or other.
Why would this be a stretch to believe? Christianity was moving along with the Romans as they expanded their empire. St. Patrick was a Roman who had been taken in slavery by Irish raiders, then later became a priest to go back and convert the Irish. If Catholicism was in the British Isles by the 4th century, who's to say it hadn't made it's way to Denmark also? Perhaps a Catholic priest had been taken to Denmark as a prisoner by the 'Vikings' of the era, and began spreading the Faith. It's not far-fetched to consider it.