Fisherman's House, Moesgaard, in December

Fisherman's House, Moesgaard, in December
Fisherman's House, Moesgaard, in December

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Trundholm Sun Chariot/ Solvognen - Bronze Age






front side with gilding
The sun chariot (the Trundholm Sun Chariot)  is a Danish national treasure and a uniqe find from Bronze Age made in bronze and gold. The sun chariot is a horse drawing a sun disk. The horse and the disk stand upon the rests of six wheels  - and both horse and disk have eyelets in order to fasten the strings. The sun disk is coated with gold in fine patterns and circular motifs.
landmark/Odsherred municipality

The sculpture was found on 7th September 1902 in Trundholm Mose (a peat bog) in the northwestern part of Zealand in the region Odsherred in connection to the first ploughing of the moor. The finder Frederik Willumsen brought his discovery back home and let his son play with the horse, he thought  it was just an old piece of toy. The sun chariot had however already been damaged once in Bronze Age when it was placed in the moor as a sacrifice to the gods. A metal detector revealed in 1998 new fragments of the six wheels in the same spot. The sculpture is dated by the Nationalmuseet to about 1800 to 1600 BCE though other dates have been suggested. Unfortunately the chariot was found before pollen-dating was developed, which would have enabled a more confident dating. The sun chariot is now in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. 




backside with no gilding
The disk has a diameter of approximately 25 cm (9.8 inches). It is gilded on one side only, the right-hand side (when looking in the direction of the horse). 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

The gilded sun disk is placed upon the sun chariot and the chariot noves from left to right towards the sun during the day The opposite side of the chariot lacks the gilding on the sun disk -  this is the darkened sun at night on its way back from right to left to its starting point at sun rise, so the sun chariot illustrates with the two different sides the movement of the sun during day and night.




A Sun Horse in Mindeparken in Aarhus /photo gb.
People in Bronze Age did not believe in human gods as is known from the Viking period. They worshipped powers which preserved nature, powers which arranged for the rebirth of the day each morning and the rebirth of the planets each spring. They worshipped the sun as a divine power. The sun gave life and light at day, made the plants grow and the corn ripen in the summertime. It was necessary that the sun's travel across the sky continued day after day and year after year. The sun chariot was an image of this travel -  and it is possible that the priests of Bronze Age used it in religious feasts to show how the horse was drawing the sun across the sky.

The sun chariot is a witness of the religion of Bronze Age. The sun was center of the religion. People  in Bronze Age imagined that the sun was being drawn across the sky in the daytime. In the morning a fish brought the sun to a ship which carried the sun until noon. The sun horse took over and brought the sun to the afternoon ship. At evening a snake brought the sun back to the underworld which lay below the flat earth. Down here the sun was dark and it was by night ships brought back to the starting point in the morning where the fish once again took over. Thus the cycle of the day was kept for all eternity by the helpers of the sun - the fish, the horse the snake and the ships.

petroglyphs/ Grevinge
The conceptual world of the sun chariot is supported by several petroglyphs and decorations upon razors, upon jewelry, weapon and tools.Both in the petroglyphs and on the razors the horse is drawing the sun in a string, the wheels on the Danish sun chariot do actually not belong to the story. The wheels were added so the sun disk and the horse in ritual ceremonies could be drawn forth and back to make an image of the solar motion. By examining over 400 bronze artifacts the Danish archaeologist Flemming Kaul found out that the figures show the Bronze Age man's experience of the eternal travel of the sun.  All these figures and creatures were not only found in the Danish Bronze Age but were also a part of the religion of Egypt and large parts of Europe at that time. In Denmark the Bronze Age people had contacts to people far away -  they exchanged wares and got the popular bronze in return for amber and fur.






Sól and Mani, drawing by Lorenz Frølich 1895
Norse mythology. 



Despite the enormous gap in time, between varying sources, particularly Norse mythology, known from 13th AD century sources, the distinct reference of the sun being drawn by chariot is found in Norse mythology. Many attest that the Norse myths were preserved orally for an unverifiable time period before being written down, similar to the Vedic texts. In Norse mythology, Sól is the personified goddess of the Sun, the corresponding Old English name is Siȝel, continuing reconstructed Proto-Germanic Sôwilô or Saewelô. The Old High German Sun goddess is Sunna.. Every day, Sól rode through the sky on her chariot, pulled by the two horses Arvak and Alsvid. The sun chariot has been interpreted as representing a Bronze Age predecessor to the goddess. The chariot has also been interpreted as a possible Bronze Age predecessor to Skinfaxi,   the horse that pulled Dagr, the personification of day, across the sky.






Source,   Gyldendals og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 1, "I Begyndelsen";
samt Wikipedia dansk og engelsk og Nationalmuseet, København.     


photo fra Wikipedia, Wikimedia,
photo Solhesten, Mindeparken, Aarhus: grethe bachmann