The Divine Twins Pt. 2: Archaeological Evidence

This is a continuation from another blog post. Find Pt. 1 here

Kristiansen & Larsson (2011, p. 265) write that some archaeological evidence of twin rituals might be found in the Corded Ware / Battle-Axe and Yamnaya cultures of the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, based on the possible dating of the Twin myth all the way back to early Proto-Indo-European, before the migrations eastward to India, and that it was then that the myth spread to the Baltic and Greco-Roman world. As a possible example, they mention double male burials in the Corded Ware and Single Grave cultures of Northern Europe, the death maybe being foster brothers or twin leaders.

While the burials certainly are very interesting, I want to focus on rock art for this thesis. When I visited The King’s Grave (also Kungagraven or Kiviksgraven) in Kivik, I was fascinated by the pictorial scenes on the slabs in the grave. There is a scene with a wagon, and other symbols which Kristiansen and Larsson associate with the Twin mythology and performances and symbols. Most of them are pictured twice (Kristiansen & Larsson 2011, p. 269). Especially the stones without performances show twin symbols.

Taken by me in October 2018 when I visited Kivik. On the top right of the slab is a wagon scene with two horses pictured.
Two symbols with spiral ends and two wheels (interpreted after Kristiansen & Larsson 2011, p. 269). My own picture.
Another slab in the Kivik grave, with performance scenes and twin objects. My own picture.

Because of the prominence of twin items, Kristiansen & Larsson (2011, p. 267 ff.) propose that these iconographies are ritual attributes and possessions of the Divine Twins. For a better description of twin gods and twin rulers, I recommend chapter 6.5 in their book.

Another famous connection to the myth is the sun chariot from Trundholm in Denmark. It shows a horse pulling a wagon with the sun on it. One side of the sun is dark, the other has a thin layer of gold on it, probably symbolizing the sun deities of day and night. The golden side is seen when the chariot is rolled from left to right, like the movement of the sun during daytime, the other side when the chariot is rolled from right to left, thus symbolizing nighttime. It is dated to the European Bronze Age, about 1500-1300 BC (Kristiansen & Larsson 2011, p. 294 ff.)

The sun disc also seems to be connected to burial rites of high ranked females, probably priestesses of the sun goddess (Kristiansen & Larsson 2011, p. 298).

There is one interesting comparison, in which Kristiansen and Larsson point out the similarities between the Eastern Mediterranean / Near East artifacts and depictions and those of Northern Europe, see 2011, p. 314. It is an illustration showing axes, hats, and figurines in very similar positions and styles, which also appear in Scandinavian Rock carvings related to the Divine Twins. The similarities are astounding.

One more illustration by Kristiansen & Larsson 2011 has to be mentioned, on p. 306-307. It shows the sun journey during the early and the late Scandinavian Bronze Age, with pictures of petroglyphs and artifacts found in those time periods.

In his article from 2010, Kristiansen attempts to demonstrate a connection between Bronze Age rock art and the sun journey in Indo-European mythology. I do find this article the most convincing, since he contrasts it directly against the scenes we know by now from mythology, and finds their counterparts in rock art. We see amongst others twin ships (p.100), examples of ships carrying the sun (p.101), ships in relation to each other, turned by 90 degrees or upside down (p.103), and inverted night ships (p.110).

One last article deserves to be mentioned: Daphne Nash Briggs (2009) examines Belgic coins from the Iron Age. On the front is a picture of a boar-like shape, on the back various images of 2 (sometimes 3) figures on a boat. She associates them with sun travel.

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