Trundholm sun chariot

The Trundholm sun chariot (Danish: Solvognen), is a Nordic Bronze Age artifact discovered in Denmark. It is a representation of the sun chariot, a bronze statue of a horse and a large bronze disk, which are placed on a device with spoked wheels.

The sculpture was discovered with no accompanying objects in 1902 in a peat bog on the Trundholm moor in Odsherred in the northwestern part of Zealand, (approximately 55°55′N 11°37′E / 55.917°N 11.617°E). It is now in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

The gilded side of the Trundholm sun chariot.
Solvognen Do 2010 1278
The left side of the disk shows no traces of gilding.


The horse stands on a bronze rod supported by four wheels. The rod below the horse is connected to the disk, which is supported by two wheels. All of the wheels have four spokes. The artifact was cast in the lost wax method.

The whole object is approximately 54 cm × 35 cm × 29 cm (21 in × 14 in × 11 in) in size (width, height, depth).[1]

The disk has a diameter of approximately 25 cm (9.8 in). It is gilded on one side only, the right-hand side (when looking at the horse from behind). It consists of two bronze disks that are joined by an outer bronze ring, with a thin sheet of gold applied to one face. The disks were then decorated with punches and gravers with zones of motifs of concentric circles, with bands of zig-zag decoration between borders. The gold side has an extra outer zone which may represent rays, and also a zone with concentric circles linked by looping bands that "instead of flowing in one direction, progress like the steps of the dance, twice forward and once back". The main features of the horse are also highly decorated.[2]

The two sides of the disk have been interpreted as an indication of a belief that the sun is drawn across the heavens from East to West during the day, presenting its bright side to the Earth and returns from West to East during the night, when the dark side is being presented to the Earth. A continuation around a globe would have the same result. It is thought that the chariot was pulled around during religious rituals to demonstrate the motion of the sun in the heavens.[3]


The sculpture is dated by the National Museum to about 1400 BC,[4] though other dates have been suggested. It was found before pollen-dating was developed, which would have enabled a more confident dating.

A model of a horse-drawn vehicle on spoked wheels in Northern Europe at such an early time is surprising; they would not be expected to appear until the end of the Late Bronze Age, which ranges from 1100 BC to 550 BC. This and aspects of the decoration may suggest a Danubian origin or influence in the object, although the Nationalmuseet is confident it is of Nordic origin.[5]

Possible function as a calendar

Trundholm sun chariot animation
Rotating image

Klaus Randsborg, professor of archeology at the University of Copenhagen, has pointed out that the sum of an addition of the number of spirals in each circle of the disk, multiplied by the number of the circles in which they are found, counted from the middle (1x1 + 2x8 + 3x20 + 4x25), results in a total of 177, which comes very close to the number of days in six synodic months, only 44 min 2.8 s shorter each.

The synodic cycle is the time that elapses between two successive conjunctions of an object in the sky, such as a specific star, with the sun. It is the time that elapses before the object will reappear at the same point in the sky when observed from the Earth, so it is the apparent orbital period observed from Earth.

He asserts his belief that this demonstrates that the disk was designed by a person with some measure of astronomic knowledge and that the sculpture may have functioned as a calendar.

Sun chariot in Indo-European mythology

Norse mythology

The chariot has been interpreted as a possible Bronze Age predecessor to Skinfaxi,[6] the horse that pulled Dagr, the personification of day, across the sky.

Celtic Pantheon

The sky god Taranis is typically depicted with the attribute of a spoked wheel.


Surya chariot
Surya's chariot

The Rigveda also reflects the mytheme of the Sun chariot. RV 10.85 mentions the sun god's bride as seated on a chariot pulled by two steeds. The relevant verses are the following (trans. Griffith):

10. Her spirit was the bridal car; the covering thereof was heaven: Bright were both Steeds that drew it when Surya approached her husband's home.
11. Thy Steeds were steady, kept in place by holy verse and Sama-hymn: All car were thy two chariot wheels: thy path was tremulous in the sky,
12. Clean, as thou wentest, were thy wheels, wind was the axle fastened there. Surya, proceeding to her Lord, mounted a spirit-fashioned car.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Nationalmuseet
  2. ^ Sandars, 184-185
  3. ^ Sandars, 184; see also Nationalmuseet video
  4. ^
  5. ^ Nationalmuseet video; Sandars, 183-185 favours Danubian influence, and a date at the end of the 13th century.
  6. ^ Lindow, John. (2001) Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs, page 272. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
  7. ^ Mandala 10/Hymn 85


  • Sandars, Nancy K., Prehistoric Art in Europe, Penguin (Pelican, now Yale, History of Art), 1968 (nb 1st edn.)

External links

Banknotes of Denmark, 2009 series

The theme of the notes is bridges of Denmark and ancient Danish artifacts found in the vicinity of the bridges. Danish artist Karin Birgitte Lund was selected to design the 2009 series after a competition. The competition specified the bridges theme as mandatory, and it was her idea to include the artifacts on the reverse side.

The sizes of the 2009 bank notes are identical to the 1997 bank notes, in order to avoid alterations to automated teller machines. The height is 72 millimetres and the lengths are from 125 mm to 165 mm, increasing by 10 mm for each new value.

Danish art

Danish art is the visual arts produced in Denmark or by Danish artists. It goes back thousands of years with significant artifacts from the 2nd millennium BC, such as the Trundholm sun chariot. For many early periods, it is usually considered as part of the wider Nordic art of Scandinavia. Art from what is today Denmark forms part of the art of the Nordic Bronze Age, and then Norse and Viking art. Danish medieval painting is almost entirely known from church frescos such as those from the 16th-century artist known as the Elmelunde Master.

The Reformation greatly disrupted Danish artistic traditions, and left the existing body of painters and sculptors without large markets. The requirements of the court and aristocracy were mainly for portraits, usually by imported artists, and it was not until the 18th century that large numbers of Danes were trained in contemporary styles. For an extended period of time thereafter art in Denmark either was imported from Germany and the Netherlands or Danish artists studied abroad and produced work that was seldom inspired by Denmark itself. From the late 18th century on, the situation changed radically. Beginning with the Danish Golden Age, a distinct tradition of Danish art began and has continued to flourish until today. Due to generous art subsidies, contemporary Danish art has a big production per capita.

Though usually not especially a major centre for art production or exporter of art, Denmark has been relatively successful in keeping its art; in particular, the relatively mild nature of the Danish Reformation, and the lack of subsequent extensive rebuilding and redecoration of churches, has meant that with other Scandinavian countries, Denmark has unusually rich survivals of medieval church paintings and fittings. One period when Nordic art exerted a strong influence over the rest of northern Europe was in Viking art, and there are many survivals, both in stone monuments left untouched around the countryside, and objects excavated in modern times.

Golden hat

Golden hats (or Gold hats) (German: Goldhüte, singular: Goldhut) are a very specific and rare type of archaeological artifact from Bronze Age Europe. So far, four such objects ("cone-shaped gold hats of the Schifferstadt type") are known. The objects are made of thin sheet gold and were attached externally to long conical and brimmed headdresses which were probably made of some organic material and served to stabilise the external gold leaf. The following Golden Hats are known as of 2012:

Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, found in 1835 at Schifferstadt near Speyer, c. 1400–1300 BC.

Avanton Gold Cone, incomplete, found at Avanton near Poitiers in 1844, c. 1000–900 BC.

Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, found near Ezelsdorf near Nuremberg in 1953, c. 1000–900 BC; the tallest known specimen at c. 90 cm.

Berlin Gold Hat, found probably in Swabia or Switzerland, c. 1000–800 BC; acquired by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin, in 1996.

Grevensvænge figurines

The Grevensvænge hoard is a find of the late Nordic Bronze Age (roughly dating to between 800 BC and 500 BC), discovered in the late 18th century at Grevensvænge, Næstved Municipality, Zealand, Denmark.

The hoard consisted of seven bronze figurines. Its first mention is in 1779, where it is said to have been found in the ground "a few years ago". After their discovery, they were kept with the pastor at Herlufmagle, Marcus Schnabel.

A drawing of four of the figurines was made in 1779, by Schnabel. The drawing shows two kneeling figures of warriors with horned helmets and axes, a leaping acrobat, and a standing woman. Five of these figurines are now lost, while two were bought by the Danish National Museum in 1823 and 1839.

Based on comparison with petroglyphs of the same era (e.g. Tanumshede, Sweden), it is assumed that the figurines were originally part of an ensemble arranged on a ship.

Both the twins motive and the cultic significance of the horned helmets, seems to have persisted into early Germanic culture. The kneeling warrior figures have been interpreted as the "Ashvins" type divine twins of early Indo-European religion, sons of the sky-god, known by the name of Alcis to Tacitus.

List of artifacts significant to archaeoastronomy

Antikythera mechanism – A device for plotting positions of heavenly bodies. Discovered off the island of Antikythera, Greece

Book of Silk – Drawings of comets unearthed from Han tomb number 3 at Mawangdui Han tombs site, Changsha, China

Golden hats – Tall conical hats said to be embossed with symbols of astronomical significance from in Bronze Age Central Europe

Grooves (archaeology) - grooves found in rock in northern Europe and particularly on Gotland, Sweden

Nebra sky disk – A bronze disc said to date from the Bronze Age which portrays the cosmos. From Nebra, Germany

Trundholm sun chariot – A bronze sun disc pulled by a horse from Trundholm, Zealand, Denmark

National Museum of Denmark

The National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) in Copenhagen is Denmark’s largest museum of cultural history, comprising the histories of Danish and foreign cultures, alike. The museum's main building is located a short distance from Strøget at the center of Copenhagen. It contains exhibits from around the world, from Greenland to South America. Additionally, the museum sponsors SILA - The Greenland Research Center at the National Museum of Denmark to further archaeological and anthropological research in Greenland.The museum has a number of national commitments, particularly within the following key areas: archaeology, ethnology, numismatics, ethnography, natural science, conservation, communication, building antiquarian activities in connection with the churches of Denmark, as well as the handling of the Danefæ (the National Treasures).

Nebra sky disk

The Nebra sky disk is a bronze disk of around 30 centimeters (12 in) diameter and a weight of 2.2 kilograms (4.9 lb), with a blue-green patina and inlaid with gold symbols. These are interpreted generally as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars (including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades). Two golden arcs along the sides, marking the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, as the Milky Way, or as a rainbow).

The disk is attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, in Germany, and associatively dated to c. 1600 BC. It has been associated with the Bronze Age Unetice culture.

The style in which the disk is executed was unlike any artistic style then known from the period, with the result that the object was initially suspected of being a forgery, but it is now widely accepted as authentic.

The Nebra sky disk features the oldest concrete depiction of the cosmos yet known from anywhere in the world. In June 2013 it was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register and termed "one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century."

Nordic Bronze Age

The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC. The Bronze Age culture of this era succeeded the Nordic Stone Age culture (Late Neolithic) and was followed by the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The archaeological legacy of the Nordic Bronze Age culture is rich, but the ethnic and linguistic affinities of it are unknown, in the absence of written sources. Some scholars also include sites in what is now Finland, Estonia, northern Germany and Pomerania, as part of its cultural sphere.

Nordic art

Nordic art is the art made in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and associated territories. Scandinavian art refers to a subset of Nordic art and is art specific for the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Norse art, the art of the Vikings, is a form of Nordic art from a particular period of time.


Odsherred is a peninsula in the north-western part of the island Zealand (Sjælland) in Denmark. Odsherred stretches from the Sjællands Odde in the north-west to the now drained Lammefjord in the south, covering an area with a wide range of the most typical Danish landscapes: long sandy beaches, small rolling hills and farming. The peninsula is served by the railway Odsherredsbanen, which runs through the most important towns, including Nykøbing Sjælland, Asnæs and Hørve.

Prehistoric religion

Prehistoric religions are the religious beliefs and practices of prehistoric peoples. The term may cover Paleolithic religion, Mesolithic religion, Neolithic religion and Bronze Age religions.


Sagaholm is a Bronze Age cairn located just south of Jönköping, Sweden.

The site had a large barrow from the early Nordic Bronze Age. It had a circle of slabs of sandstone, probably as many as 100. The Bronze Age graves were built in the form of a mound. Around 1,500 years after the grave was built, another four smaller graves were constructed at the foot of the mound.

Only 45 graves remain, with 18 of them are adorned with petroglyphs depicting ships, animals and people, including scenes of zoophilia. The finds are presently on display in Jönköpings County Museum (Jönköpings läns museum) in Jönköping.

Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi

In Norse mythology, Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are the horses of Dagr (day) and Nótt (night). The names Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are bahuvrihi compounds, meaning "shining mane" and "rime mane" (or "frost mane"), respectively. Skinfaxi pulls Dagr's chariot across the sky every day and his mane lights up the sky and earth below.

The myth of Skinfaxi is believed to have originated in Nordic Bronze Age religion, for which there is strong evidence of beliefs involving a horse pulling the sun across the sky. The Trundholm sun chariot is drawn by a single horse, and was possibly imagined to be pulled back across the sky from west to east by a second horse. Related are Arvak and Alsvid, a team of two horses pulling the chariot of Sól.

In the Codex Regius, Skinfaxi and Hrimfaxi are mentioned in verses 7 and 8 of the Vafþrúðnismál, during the battle of wits between Odin and (the jotun) Vafþrúðnir. This is the oldest extant manuscript which mentions these two horses.

Sun cross

A sun cross, solar cross, or wheel cross is a solar symbol consisting of an equilateral cross inside a circle.

The design is frequently found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods of European prehistory. The symbol's ubiquity and apparent importance in prehistoric religion have given rise to its interpretation as a solar symbol, whence the modern English term "sun cross" (a calque of German: Sonnenkreuz).

The same symbol is in use as a modern astronomical symbol representing the Earth rather than the Sun.

The symbol can be depicted using Unicode as U+1F728 🜨 ALCHEMICAL SYMBOL FOR VERDIGRIS. The characters U+2295 ⊕ CIRCLED PLUS and U+2A01 ⨁ N-ARY CIRCLED PLUS OPERATOR are similar in appearance but represent mathematical operators.

Sól (sun)

Sól (Old Norse "Sun") or Sunna (Old High German, and existing as an Old Norse and Icelandic synonym: see Wiktionary sunna, "Sun") is the Sun personified in Norse mythology. One of the two Old High German Merseburg Incantations, written in the 9th or 10th century CE, attests that Sunna is the sister of Sinthgunt. In Norse mythology, Sól is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.

In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda she is described as the sister of the personified moon, Máni, is the daughter of Mundilfari, is at times referred to as Álfröðull, and is foretold to be killed by a monstrous wolf during the events of Ragnarök, though beforehand she will have given birth to a daughter who continues her mother's course through the heavens. In the Prose Edda, she is additionally described as the wife of Glenr. As a proper noun, Sól appears throughout Old Norse literature. Scholars have produced theories about the development of the goddess from potential Nordic Bronze Age and Proto-Indo-European roots.

The King's Grave

The King's Grave near Kivik (Kungagraven i Kivik, Kiviksgraven) in the southeastern portion of the Swedish province of Skåne is what remains of an unusually grand Nordic Bronze Age double burial c. 1400 BC.

The Sun in culture

The Sun, as the source of energy and light for life on earth has been a central object in culture and religion since prehistory. Ritual solar worship has given rise to solar deities in theistic traditions throughout the world, and solar symbolism is ubiquitous. Apart from its immediate connection to light and warmth, the sun is also important in timekeeping as the main indicator of the day and the year.

Wetland deposits in Scandinavia

In many areas of Scandinavia, a wide variety of items were deposited in lakes and bogs from the Mesolithic period through to the Middle Ages. Such items include earthenware, decorative metalwork, weapons, and human corpses, known as bog bodies. As Kaul noted, "we cannot get away from the fact that the depositions in the bogs were connected with the ritual/religious sphere."The earliest examples of wetland deposits from Scandinavia come from the Mesolithic, including elk bones and earthenware vessels. In the Neolithic, earthenware vessels and flint axes were deposited in the wetlands, with a number of wooden platforms being constructed to allow greater access to the wetlands themselves. In the Bronze Age, a wide variety of different items were placed into bogs, although the levels of deposition fluctuated throughout the period. It also witnessed the deposition of several high-value metal items, including the Trundholm sun chariot and a number of lurs and shields. The Pre-Roman Iron Age witnessed the continued deposition of these high-status item, including decorated metal cauldrons, most notably the Gundestrup Cauldron. It also saw the deposition of increasingly complex assemblages, which often brought together animal and human bones with stones, sticks, and wooden equipment.

Many of the items deposited in bogs were highly valuable.

It is possible that some artefacts also ended up in bogs and lakes without deliberate human intent, for instance if they were lost by accident or produced in settlements that existed adjacent to such wetland areas.

Árvakr and Alsviðr

In Norse mythology, Árvakr (Old Norse "early awake") and Alsviðr (Old Norse "very quick") are the horses which pull the sun, or Sól's chariot, across the sky each day. It is said that the gods fixed bellows underneath the two horses' shoulders to help cool them off as they rode.Both horses are only mentioned in Gylfaginning and Grímnismál and their names are frequently associated with descriptions of the Sun. In Nordic mythology, gods govern the passage of days, nights, and seasons, and shape the Sun from a spark of the flame Muspelheim, but the Sun stands still without a driver. Sól is kidnapped by the gods to drive the Sun in a chariot pulled by two horses. Two large bellows (Isarnkoll; cold iron) were placed under the shoulders of the two horses to protect them from the immense heat of the Sun. Sól is unable to stop driving the chariot or else Sköll will catch the Sun and devour it; the Sun is expected to be caught and devoured on the day of Ragnarök.The antiquity of the myth that the Sun is pulled by horses is not definitely from the Nordic religion. Many other mythologies and religions contain a solar deity or carriage of the Sun pulled by horses. In Persian and Phrygian mythology, Mithras and Attis perform this task. In Greek mythology, Apollo performs this task, although it was previously performed by Helios. The myth of Árvakr and Alsviðr is thought to have inspired English dramatist and poet James Shirley's play The Triumph of Peace (1663).

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