The following article is a continuation of the two previous ones, in which the author Tomáš Vlasatý maps the typology of strikers from the territory of Viking Age Norway (Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Norway) and Denmark (Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Denmark). The catalog compiled below presents a list of all known types of strikers from Sweden and Gotland, which can be dated between the years 700-1000 and can be found both on the portal of the State History Museum in Stockholm (historiska.se) and in the literature. According to the portal historiska.se, the dating of many strikers is given between 800 and 1100, in a broader scope even up to the period from 500 BC to 1100 AD. Due to the diversity of the individual specimens, I leaned towards the typology already created by Birgitta Hårdh applied to the strikers from Birka (Hårdh 1984: 155). Six categories are defined:
- Lyre-shaped strikers
- Oval strikers
- Tongue-shaped strikers
- Strikers with a bronze handle
- Stikers – combs
The size of individual strikers varies between 21-109.3 mm. Several finds were found alongside flintstones (Serning 1966: 82). This list is not exhaustive. There are certainly a number of other finds that are not published here. If you find pieces that are not in the catalog below, please contact me or Tomáš Vlasatý. Thank you.
Type 1. Lyre-shaped strikers
The lyre-shaped shape of strikers is one of the most widespread types in Sweden. About 31 pieces are known from Uppland alone, of which 20 come from Birka. There are 20 specimens from Dalarna. Four pieces are known from Gästrikland, two from Västmanland, Öland and Ångermanland. The rest is made up of one piece from Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Skåne, Småland, Södermanland, Västerrbotten and Lapland. Due to the diversity of individual striker shapes, a more detailed typological classification is relatively problematic, which also complicates the large number of striker fragments, of which only a part can be assigned to the subtypes specified below, and the other part can only be assumed to belong to the lyre-shaped type on the basis of some preserved part of the fragment, showing typical features of this type. As I mentioned above, the shape of most strikers is quite diverse. Arms extend from the impact surface, more or less symmetrically bent towards the top of the central part. The arms are bent into a spiral, in most cases outwards, but there are also cases where the spirals are bent inwards, towards the apex of the central part (575445_HST). Spirals almost always touch the arms. In some cases the arms touch the center part, in others there is a free space between them and the center part. In one case, the tops of the arms are bent outwards, into some kind of tongues (979288_HST). The central part of the striker usually has a characteristic triangular shape. In addition, we know strikers with the central part that is rounded or risen significantly towards the arms in the form of a high arch. There are also several finds whose inner side of the striking surface has a classic triangular shape, but the arms extend relatively high above the middle part, at the ends they are joined together without a spiral ending, which gives a shape of a ring. Among the lyre-shaped type, I also included finds with a straight central part. The oldest pieces come from the Vendel period and their use continued in the Viking Age. However, strikers of similar shapes were probably used in Scandinavia until the 19th century (Hårdh 1984: 155-156).
The most common type, which consists of arms extending from the striking surface that is terminated on the inside in the shape of a triangle or is slightly oval. At the ends, the arms often end in a spiral turned outwards, inwards or towards the top of the striking surface. The arms may or may not touch. In some cases, they also touch the top of the central part. They are represented in the following provinces:
Dalarna: grave no. 2 from Bengtsarvet (107493_HST); Folkärna, Sjöängsholmen (Serning 1966: Pl. 3:6); Leksands, Hjortnäs (Serning 1966: Pl. 12:11); grave no. 2 from Leksands, Vestännor (Serning 1966: Pl. 14:10); Lima, Bergsvalla (Serning 1966: Pl. 18:5); Rättviks (Serning 1966: Pl. 58:14, 15); Åhls, Tuna (Serning 1966: Pl. 93:14).
Gästrikland: Ålbo (1183243_HST).
Hälsingland: Landa – 1165374_HST.
Skåne: Pk-banken, Lund (66166:2949) (Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194).
Småland: Bolmsö – 528726_HST.
Uppland: Birka, Svarta jorden (269247_HST); Birka, Svarta jorden (977339_HST); Birka, Svarta jorden (979288_HST); Birka, Svarta jorden (981369_HST); Birka, BJ 914 (446858_HST); Birka, BJ 62 (469585_HST); Birka, BJ 644 (472177_HST); Birka, BJ 727 (475802_HST); Birka, BJ 139 (575445_HST); Birka, BJ 1107 (580590_HST); Birka, BJ 1125B (581138_HST); Birka, BJ 902 (581843_HST); Birka, BJ 956 (610683_HST); Skälby (877817_HST); Arninge (1184605_HST); grave no. 12 from Valsgärde, hrob č. 12 (5912:1194:001) and grave no. 15 from Valsgärde (5915:1018:02) (Sénby Posse 2021: 48, 81).
The find from Ålbo, Gästrikland. Source: historiska.se.
This type of striker is characterized by a significantly high central part in the form of an arch. Arms extend from the striking part and they end in a spiral pointing outwards. The arms may or may not touch the top of the midsection. Seven specimens from the following provinces are represented:
Dalarna: Häradsarvet (107493_HST).
Gästrikland: Kvarteret Pechlin (621875_HST; 621879_HST).
Lappland: Solberg (24328_HST).
Öland: Solberga (452645_HST).
Västerbotten: Ådals, Liden (Zachrisson 1976: Fig. 32:3).
Ångermanland: Nämforsen (859800_HST).
The find from Kvarteret Pechlin, Gästrikland. Source: historiska.se.
The central part of the striking surface is formed into a triangular shape, the arms extending from the striking part are bent upwards, towards each other, and end straight, without spirals. Five finds are known:
Dalarna: Mora, Kråkberg (Serning 1966: Pl. 36:12, 13).
Gästrikland: Järvsta (1184835_HST).
Uppland: Birka, Garnisonen (428966_HST); Hovgården (1136758_HST).
The find from Hovgården, Uppland. Source: historiska.se.
The only known find is from Dalarna: Uppsälje (454485_HST). This type has a relatively rare design, the central part is significantly large, in the shape of a triangle. The arms practically copy the middle section, they are made of twisted iron wires that meet at the top of the middle section. The ends are twisted into spirals. However, the find is dated to the Vendel period (Serning 1966: 82).
The find from Uppsälje, Dalarna. Source: historiska.se.
Among the lyre-shaped types, I also included strikers whose inner side of the striking part is completely flat. Arms extend from the striking surface, which either touch the central part or there is a gap between it and the arms. The arms are bent at the ends into spirals. Four finds are represented:
Dalarna: Getryggen (470085_HST); find from the vicinity of grave no. 2 from Bengtsarvet (Serning 1966: Pl. 79:12).
Småland: Virkvarn (1089241_HST).
Västmanland: Jämmertuna (1173659_HST).
The find from Virkvarn, Småland. Source: historiska.se.
These types of strikers have the inner side of the striking surface formed into slightly or more raised arches, but not as pronounced as in subtype 1.2. The arms come directly from the arches and are also twisted into spirals. We know three finds:
Dalarna: grave no. 2 from Sollerö, Bengtsarvet (Serning 1966: 82, Pl. 79:3).
Uppland: Birka (1206145_HST, although the find is in a fragmentary state, it shows elements similar to this type) and an unknown Swedish site (971326_HST).
The find from grave no. 2 from Sollerö, Bengtsarvet, Dalarna. Source: Serning 1966: Pl. 79:3.
The only so far known find of this striker type comes from Dalarna, Sollerö Kyrka (Serning 1966: 82; Pl. 81:14). The central part rises high into a triangle shape and the arms extend from the impact surface, they create S-shape and are twisted into spirals pointing outwards from the arms.
The find from Sollerö Kyrka, Dalarna. Source: Serning 1966: 82, Pl. 81:14.
Simple strikers with shoulders extending upwards from the striking surface, they do not meet at all, there is a significant gap between them. The center of the inner part is straight. Only two finds are known: Långön, Ångermanland (971220_HST) and an object from grave no. 4 from Stora Tuna-Sör, Amsberg, Dalarna (identified by Lundström as striker, Serning 1966: 82; Pl. 91:14).
The find from Långön, Ångermanland. Source: historiska.se.
The rest consists of finds in a fragmentary state and their typological classification is relatively difficult. Based on certain character traits, however, they can be assigned to lyre-shaped striker.
Dalarna: grave no. 4 from Svärdsjö, Hinsnäset (Serning 1966: Pl. 93:19, 20, 21).
Härjedalen: Vivallen (605325_HST).
Jämtland: Fäste, Vestgården (118277_HST).
Öland: Torp, Lunden (445973_HST).
Södermanland: Lunda – 549780_HST.
Uppland: Arninge (3037581_HST); Birka, Svarta jorden (975120_HST; 984819_HST; 985903_HST); Helgö (144489_HST; 144734_HST); Hovgården (1136762_HST); Stora och Lilla Prästgården (1382994_HST).
Västmanland: Jämmertuna (1174070_HST).
Type 2. Oval strikers
Double-sided oval-shaped stiker with a hole in the middle. Finds of two strikers of these types are known from Dalarna (Vestännor [1186445_HST], the second find comes from the same locality) and Uppland (Birka, Svarta jorden [269246_HST, 975064_HST]). One piece was found in PK-banken, Lund in Skåne (66166:1539), in Västerbotten (grave no. 2 from Ådals – Linden, Ställverket [Zachrisson 1976: 32. Fig. 32:4]) and in Ångermanland (Rossvik [1164416_HST]). In case of the find from Svarta jorden in Birka (97506_HST), it can be assumed that one of the ends was equipped with a projection with a hole for hanging, as in the striker from the Danish site Fribrødre Å (Type 3.3). Inga Serning places the origin of these strikers east of Sweden, as the most common type is in Finland (Serning 1966: 82).
The find from PK-banken, Lund, Skåne. Source: Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194.
Only two pieces are known. One from Uppland (Birka, BJ 750 [107795_HST]) and the other from Skåne – in a fragmentary state from PK-banken, Lund [66166:1280], dated to the 11th century, which is equipped with a metal ring (Hårdh 1984: 156; Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194). The striker from Birka has an oval shape, slightly narrowing towards the end. The hole in its center is filled with iron wire, formed into loops. The closest analogies come from Finland.
The find from Birka, BJ 750. Source: historiska.se.
Only one find of this striker type is known. It comes from the site of Säffle – Sund, Värmland (123036_HST). The center of the lenticular-shaped striker is filled with flat wire that is twisted in the form of loops. There is a metal ring on one of the ends.
The find from Säffle, Värmland. Source: historiska.se.
Type 3. Tongue-shaped strikers
The double-sided striker shaped in the form of a tongue consists of two parts. A handle is created by a central openwork casting from bronze, which is finished with a semicircular projection on the top. The outer part consists of an iron striking surface. The surface of bronze handle is decorated with various forms of ornaments, mostly of a braided nature. However, their interpretation is often difficult due to corrosion. There are 6 specimens from Birka in Uppland (Birka, Svarta jorden [268645_HST]; BJ 99 [415035_HST]; BJ 655 [475043_HST]; BJ 379 [544604_HST]; BJ 1139 [588111_HST; 611453_HST]) and one from Östvedy, Gästrikland (1183156_HST). According to Petersen, these strikers are dated to the 9th century. The closest analogies come from Estonia, Finland, Norway and Poland.
The find from Birka, BJ 1139. Source: historiska.se.
The only known find of this type comes from Birka, Uppland (BJ 456 [552099_HST]). The tongue-shaped striker has a length of 109.3 mm. The cast bronze handle is absent, instead the striker is made entirely of iron. The middle part consists of a corrugated wire passing from the upper part downwards, to the narrowed part. The sides of the striker are filled with twisted wire, which probably extends outwards on the upper side, in the form of a semicircular projection. The closest parallels are known from Estonia and Russia (Hårdh 1984: 156).
The find from Birka, BJ 456. Source: historiska.se.
Simple types of strikers in the form of a tongue, equipped with a hole, or even a looped ring intended for hanging. We know three pieces from Uppland (Birka, BJ 1074 [442014_HST]; Almvägen [1310530_HST]; Almvägen [1310607_HST]) and two from Västmanland (Äs [1174272_HST]; Tunby [1175106_HST]).
The find from Almvägen, Uppland. Source: historiska.se.
Type 4. Strikers with a bronze handle
Two-rider shaped strikers are represented by three finds from Uppland (Eke [120576_HST]; Birka, Bj 776 [563464_HST]; Tuna [1089939_HST]) and one piece from Öland and one from Gotland (which unfortunately I could not identify; Hårdh 1984: 157). The bronze handle of the striker is shaped in the form of two horsemen. The lower part consists of a striking iron surface. Strikers are considered to be an Eastern import, and the closest analogies come from Finland, Latvia, Norway and Russia. The dating is given to the second half of the 10th century (Petersen 1951: 433).
The find from Eke, Uppland. Source: historiska.se.
The only known find of this type of stiker is a specimen from Birka (BJ644 [458255_HST]), Uppland. The striker consists of a lower striking part of iron and an upper bronze one, in the form of two stylized animal heads, on long necks with pointed chins and small ears. Parameters: length – 57 mm; width – 46 mm. Other specimens are known from Finland and Russia. Eastern origin is also assumed for this type.
The find from Birka, BJ 644. Source: historiska.se.
Type 5. Stikers – combs
Two multifunctional strikers – combs are so far the only known find of such an object from the Viking Age. They come from two graves in Birka, Uppland (BJ 715 [469324_HST] and BJ 955 [610375_HST]). The combs are constructed in such a way that the upper part, the handle, is formed by a horizontal groove, which is filled with an iron rail, serving as a striker. It copies the shape of the handle and protrudes above it by 0.7-1 cm. The comb from grave BJ 955 is connected by three rivets that seem to pass through the striker (Hårdh 1944: 158; Multifunctional combs from Birka).
The find from Birka, BJ 955. Source: Arbman 1940: Taf. 163.11.
Type 6. Amulets
Approximately 35 striker-shaped amulets have been found in Sweden, of which 8 are silver, 4 are bronze, and up to 23 are iron. They are represented in the following provinces:
Dalsland: Stora Ryk (111589_HST).
Östergötland: Borgs säteri (396889_HST; 396890_HST; 396894_HST; 396902_HST; 396906_HST; 396910_HST; 396913_HST; 396927_HST); Smedby gård (873951_HST).
Öland: Algutsrum (267201_HST); Köping (106667_HST); Ölands Alunbruk (107871_HST).
Skåne: Glemminge (107854_HST).
Södermanland: Eskilstuna (363126_HST).
Uppland: Birka BJ 825 (107856_HST), BJ 950 (107857_HST), BJ 944 (609495_HST); Birka, Svarta jorden (266696_HST; 269248_HST; 419299_HST; 419468_HST; 415236_HST; 418999_HST; 269250_HST; 914271_HST); Helgö (454252_HST; 126352_HST; 125501_HST); Västra Ledinge (108593_HST); Gammla Uppsala (729773_HST; 729774_HST); Valsta RAÄ165 (1092268_HST; 1092269_HST); Rissne (1294423_HST); Gredby (371747_HST).
Västmanland: Västerås (267620_HST).
Some specimens should are said to come from Närke and Västergötland as well. Most of the amulets come from hoards, only in four cases amulets were found in graves, and all of them came from female graves (two from Birka, one from Hällstad, Västergötland and another from Längbro, Närke). They are dated to the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century (Ström 1984: 139).
The find from Ölands Alunbruk, Öland. Source: historiska.se.
About 20-30 pieces of stikers are known from Gotland, which is a relatively small number compared to the finds from Birka (approx. 40 pieces). The finds mostly come from male graves. In three cases strikers were also found in women’s graves (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 282-283). The length of individual specimens varies between 71.1-87 mm. The following types are defined for Gotland:
- Lyre-shaped strikers
- Oval strikers
- Tongue-shaped strikers
One piece of type with bronze handle in the shape of two horsemen is supposed to come from Gotland, but I have not been able to find this specimen (Arwidsson 1984: 157).
Type 1. Lyre-shaped strikers
On Gotland, approximately 15 pieces of strikers were found, which can be assigned to the lyre-shaped type. Almost all of them are in a fragmentary state, including the find from Roirhage, Grötlingbo (273613_HST), whose typological classification is, however, impossible due to the condition of the find, it can only be confirmed with certainty that it belongs to the lyre-shaped type.
A classic type of lyre-shaped striker, the arms of the striking surface extend in different height positions above the central part, which is mostly shaped into a triangle or is slightly wavy. The finds come from the following locations: Ryftes, Fole (448449_HST); Hemse Annexhemman, Hemse (448464_HST); Gannarve, Hall (459314_HST); grave no. 14 from Laxarve, Boge (GF C 10038; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 13:12); grave no. 505 from Ire, Hellvi (GF C 9285; GF C 10221; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 200b:18); grave no. 224 from Ire, Hellvi (GF C 9322; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 220b:15); Slite, Othem (447403_HST); Slite, Othem (SHM 23248:14; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 261:11); grave no. 6/54 from Mos, Stenkyrka (SHM 25455; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 284:5).
The find from Slite, Othem (447403_HST). Source: historiska.se.
This striker shape has either a slightly or significantly raised central triangular part. However, the arms extending from the striking surface do not exceed the height of the central part. Four finds are known: Buters, Hörsne (448453_HST); Gannarve, Hall (SHM 19646; Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 216:11); Bjärs, Hejnum (SHM 8062:7a; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 151:2) and Mölner, Väte (SHM 32457:84; Thunmark-Nylén 1995: Abb. 445:12).
The find from Buters, Hörsne. Source: historiska.se.
A special striker type from GF Paviken nr. 33131, Västergorn (Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 216:6), consisting of four arms extending from the striking surface. The central part is slightly raised, it may have ended in a triangle or was slightly oval. Two opposing arms, practically extending from two larger ones, probably twisted at the ends into spirals, are in a fragmentary state, it is possible that they could have formed a kind of bridge over the central part of the striking surface, similar to one found in Nórska.
The find from GF Paviken nr. 33131, Västergorn. Source: Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 216:6.
Type 2. Oval strikers
Finds of this striker type are represented by only two specimens: Björkome, Väskinde (448506_HST) and Alsarve, Ardre (SHM 33019:1; Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 216:12). The second mentioned find is equipped with an iron ring.
The find from Björkome. Source: historiska.se.
The find from Alsarve. Source: Thunmark-Nylén 1998: Taf. 216:12.
Type 3. Tongue-shaped strikers
The only known find comes from Grötlingbo (448586_HST). Just one part of the openwork bronze handle has been preserved. Parameters: length – 80 mm; width – 23 mm.
The find from Grötlingbo. Source: historiska.se.
This type is also represented by only one known find from Slite, Othem (447523_HST). The striker has a long, tongue-like shape. At one of the ends, it is bent into a loop, which was probably used to thread a cord intended for hanging.
The find from Slite. Source: historiska.se.
Type 4. Amulets
Finds of amulets in the form of fire strikers are known from a total of four locations: Broa, Halla (109292_HST); Lifride Lärbro (SHM 3171; Stenberger 1947: 252.2); Gåshagen, Västerhejde (SHM 4092, SHM 6088, SHM 7295, SHM 9086, SHM 9162; Stenberger 1947: 161.2); Talings, Rute (SHM 3954; Stenberger 1947: 146.4). The suggested dating is given between the 10th and 11th centuries.
Among the strikers from Gotland there are 10 more finds, whose typological classification could not be find out (the list of finds is published in Thunmark-Nylén 2000: 1037): Burs – Häffinds Unters; Endre Bäcks (SHM 2685; striker?); Grötlingbo, Barshalder (SHM 32181:28); Hablingbo, Havor (SHM 8064:191); Lammelunda, Burge (I) (SHM 29560; SHM 29561-62; striker?); Othem, Slite (SHM 23248:8; striker?, flintstone); grave no. 4 from Västergorn, Mafrids; Visby, Lands Kopparsvik (GF C 12675:119); Gotland (SHM 2976:203).
At the end of the article, I would like to thank Tomáš Vlasatý for his help in compiling the catalog of striker as well as for the opportunity to publish it on these pages.
We hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact us or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support our work, please, fund our project on Patreon or Paypal.
Hårdh, Birgitta. Feuerstahle, In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:1. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 1984, 155 – 160.
Mårtensson, A. W. Uppgrävt förflutet för PKbanken i Lund. Archaeologica Lundensia, VII, Lund, 1976.
Petersen, Jan. Vikingetidens Redskaper, Oslo, 1951.
Serning, Inga. Dalarnas järnålder, Stockholm, 1966.
Stenberger, Mårten. Die Schatzfunde Gotlands. Der Wikingerzeit. II. Fundbeschreibung und Tafeln, Lund, 1947.
Ström, Krister. Thorshammerringe und andere Gegenstände des heidnischen Kults, In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:1. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 1984, 125-140.
Thunmark-Nylén, Lena. Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands I : Abbildungen der Grabfunde, Stockholm, 1995.
Thunmark-Nylén, Lena. Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands II : Typentafeln, Stockholm, 1998.
Thunmark-Nylén, Lena. Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands IV:3 : Katalog, Stockholm, 2000.
Thunmark-Nylén, Lena. Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III:1 : Text, Stockholm, 2006.
Vlasatý, Tomáš. Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Norway. In: Project Forlǫg : Reenactment and science [online]. [2022-12-07]. Available at: https://sagy.vikingove.cz/en/typology-of-fire-strikers-from-the-viking-age-norway/
Vlasatý, Tomáš. Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Denmark. In: Project Forlǫg : Reenactment and science [online]. [2022-12-10]. Available at: https://sagy.vikingove.cz/en/typology-of-fire-strikers-from-the-viking-age-denmark/