When Stone Tools Were Considered Remnants of Lightning – and Weapons of the Gods |


BBefore modern archeology, stone axes fashioned in or before Neolithic times were known as thunder stones. It was believed that they were created when lightning struck the ground and that they had magical properties.

The first century Roman writer Pliny called the stones céraunie and said they were wanted by the Magi, the priests of the Zoroastrian religion. He noted that they looked like ax points but were of natural origin, “only found in a place that was struck by lightning.”

Many ancient writers believed that such stones provided protection against lightning and some Greek houses may still have a astropelekia (“Lightning ax”) to protect the household. They were also believed to ward off witchcraft, nightmares, and other evils. In Scandinavia, they were supposed to deter trolls.

Before modern archeology, Neolithic stone axes were known as thunder stones. Photograph: AAAS / Science / PA

The belief that stone tools are in fact the remnants of lightning has been recorded throughout Europe, as well as parts of Africa and the Far East. In Borneo, lightning stones were kept in rice barns to help preserve the grain.

The ancient god of time Perkunos carried a weapon whose name means both “thunderbolt” and “hammer”. The Greek supreme deity, Zeus, was normally depicted with a thunderbolt similar to a javelin, but sometimes with a stone ax. The association between lightning and Neolithic stone axes may also be the source of the hammer wielded by the Norse god of thunder, and more recently Marvel icon Thor.

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