3D scanning reveals powerful Viking Queen Thyra on Danish runestones

Archaeologists have harnessed 3D scanning technology to delve into the inscriptions etched onto two sets of Danish runestones. Their findings suggest that four of these stones were likely crafted in honor of a formidable Viking Queen.

The initial group, known as the Jelling Stones, were erected by Harald Bluetooth, the monarch often attributed with the establishment of the Danish state, as a tribute to his parents Gorm and Thyra. The second cluster, the Ravnunge-Tue Stones, also make mention of a woman named Thyra.

The research team hypothesized that these two groups of stones referred to the same individual. Should this theory hold true, Thyra would emerge as the most prominently referenced figure on Viking-Age Danish runestones.

Dr. Lisbeth M. Imer, the lead author of this study from the National Museum of Denmark, outlined their objective: “We aimed to discover shared characteristics among the rune carvings on these stones, thus linking the Ravnunge-Tue stones to the Jelling stones. If such a connection existed, it would strongly suggest that all these stones were dedicated to Thyra, Harald Bluetooth’s mother.”

To substantiate their theory, Dr. Imer and a team of investigators from various Scandinavian institutions created 3D models of the runestones and meticulously analyzed the runic characters, their shapes, the carving techniques, and the language used. The results of their investigation were published in the journal Antiquity.

3D model of the Jelling 2 Stone, highlighting the runes analyzed. Credit: Antiquity (2023). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2023.108

The researchers compared the engraved patterns on well-preserved runestones to identify unique marks made by different carvers. The resemblance between the runes on the Læborg Stone (one of the Ravnunge-Tue Stones) and the Jelling 2 Stone strongly suggests that they shared the same engraver.

Consequently, it is highly likely that the references to Thyra on both sets of stones pertain to the same person—the Danish Queen and mother of Harald Bluetooth. This revelation underscores her remarkable influence and prominence. It implies that she may have held land and authority independently, not solely through her husband.

Dr. Imer noted, “No other Viking man or woman in Denmark has been mentioned on that many runestones,” highlighting her undeniable significance in shaping the realm under her son, Harald Bluetooth.

Significantly, this finding suggests that Viking women wielded more influence in Denmark during the Viking Age than previously assumed. It hints at the possibility that Viking women had the capacity to hold power in their own right and govern on behalf of their husbands or underage sons.

Moreover, this revelation holds substantial implications for our understanding of the formation of the Danish state.

“The combination of our analyses and the geographic distribution of the runestones indicates that Thyra was one of the central figures, perhaps the central figure, in assembling the Danish realm,” the authors stated.

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