Did the Vikings Possess Advanced Navigation Technology?

Viking explorers made it to America long before Columbus. That is now widely accepted, but the navigational expertise that would have been required, has remained a mystery. The standard view has been that the Vikings must have been very good at using landmarks, birds, and whales, but little else. It has, however, long been believed by some, that the secret may have been something called a ‘sunstone,’ a crystal which made it possible to accurately track the position of the sun, even in cloudy or foggy weather. The idea has intrigued many but has been difficult to prove. If it is true that the Vikings could do this, it would mean they had a basic understanding of how to interpret polarized light, something we use today to measure and differentiate various chemicals and to make other important scientific observations. Though the notion remains controversial, new studies from several sources are beginning to fill in some of the blanks.

One group of British researchers has simulated the conditions that the ancient sailors might have faced and established that cordierite and tourmaline, and maybe even calcite, crystals could have done the job.

In another study, Hungarian scientists claim that the legendary sunstone could have guided the Viking ships even after the sun had set. The researchers working in Hungary have proposed that a sun compass artifact found in a convent in 1948 might have been used in conjunction with crystals.

Still another group of researchers at the university of Rennes has focused its attention on an oblong calcite crystal, which they believe to be an authentic sunstone, found in the wreck of a sixteenth century English warship. The crystal navigation technique, it is believed, was introduced to European navigation in the thirteenth century.

Many alternative researchers argue that an advanced crystal technology was one of the hallmarks of ancient civilizations now lost to history. According to Edgar Cayce, Atlantis itself utilized crystals in many ways beyond anything we can duplicate today, and, in fact, he said the misuse of that technology led to the sudden destruction of the civilization. Any suggestion that supposedly primitive societies possessed advanced technology of any kind has been long scoffed at by orthodoxy. Recent discoveries, however, such as those surrounding the Antikythera mechanism, the Phaistos disk, now the sunstone, and others, may shed light—polarized and otherwise—on the subject.

CAPTION: Iceland spar, which some believe was the medieval sunstone used to locate the sun in the sky in cloudy conditions.