Small Viking Charms Really Do Represent Thor’s Hammer

Inscription on a small metal charm definitively states ‘This is a hammer’

Hammer amulets like these have been found across Viking Europe Werner Forman/Werner Forman/Corbis

Artifacts don’t usually come with handy labels identifying exactly what an object was, how it was used and what significance it had to its owner. If they did, archaeologists’ jobs would be a lot easier: once they found an object, they could just flip it over and check for the inscription. But, as Past Horizons reports, for the researchers at Denmark’s Museum Lolland-Falster, that’s exactly what happened.

A detectorist exploring a field in Denmark (with a metal detector) came across some small metal objects from the Viking era and reported the find to the museum. Among the objects was a small charm shaped like a hammer, which very helpfully bore the runic inscription “Hmar x is” which translates to “This is a hammer.”

The small hammer is very similar to more than a thousand other similarly shaped charms, called torshammere, that have been found across Europe. Archaeologists had long suspected that they were, in fact, hammers—meant to represent Thor’s hammer—and were likely used as a protective charm by people during that time period. 

“It was the amulet’s protective power that counted, and often we see torshammere and Christian crosses appearing together, providing double protection”, Past Horizons quotes Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark as saying. 

Archaeologists owe the person who carved the runes into the hammer charm 1,100 years ago a great debt. There had been some debate as to whether the charms actually represented a hammer or not, but now there seems to be a definitive answer. They are hammers. 

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