Viking "thunderstones" identified in graves

Archaeologists have long wondered about the inclusion of "thunderstones"—fist-size stone tools resembling the Norse god Thor's hammerhead -- in Viking graves. New research may show that the stones were considered good-luck talismans. (photo)

Experts once believed that the stones, found in many Viking graves, were insignificant rocks, or were from earlier burials, but now feel that they were carefully chosen and placed in the graves. "The form had to be similar to an ax or a hammer—that is, a ground stone or flint. The stone had to have 'flaming' properties, which flint and quartz have. And all the stones were damaged with the edge chipped off—'proof' that they fell from the sky," said archaeologist Olle Hemdorff.