The Rok stone, created in the ninth century in south central Sweden, bears the longest runic inscription known in the world.
Scholars have put forward a number of theories about the meaning behind the 700 inscriptions, including that the stone may have honored a lost son or served as a way to preserve tribal myths. Its cryptic etchings have now inspired a new interpretation: the runestone was erected by Vikings who prophesized a climate crisis in Scandinavia.
The theory has been hatched by researchers hailing from three Swedish universities. The team of academics — which included specialists in the fields of philology, archaeology and the history of religion — concluded that the ancient inscription “deals with an anxiety triggered by a son’s death and the fear of a new climate crisis similar to the catastrophic one after 536 CE.”
Temperatures in Scandinavia plunged in the sixth century, destroying crops and causing widespread hunger. The researchers believe that, when the runes speak of battles being waged over hundreds of years, they’re actually alluding to “the conflict between light and darkness, warmth and cold, life and death.”
Coincidentally, the world’s best-known climate activist, Greta Thunberg, also hails from Sweden. Even more coincidentally, both are known to have sailed in carbon-neutral boats.
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