There are many items testifying to religious or ritual activity in the rich archaeological material of the Nordic Bronze Age (1700–500 BCE). The large and varied imagery on bronze objects and rocks is unique in a European context. Furthermore, cultic buildings, burials and offerings, objects such as lurs, large axes and horned helmets must be understood as sacred objects or ritual gear. Rock carvings depict these objects in use.
Since there are no written sources from this period, the iconographic material is the primary “solid” expression of the religion in question. Thus, we focus on the transempirical powers that seem to be frequently represented on Late Bronze Age bronze objects such as razors. By analysing these images, a sequence of the journey of the sun by day and by night can often be “read”, and we can also recognize parts of a basic Nordic Bronze Age myth, including transempirical helpers or manifestations of the sun, such as the sun-horse, the fish, the snake and the ship. Thus, although the task at first may seem impossible, archaeology provides access into the nature of the religion of that era – even by the exacting standards of Armin Geertz's phenomenological system of classification of religion (Geertz 1996, 1999).
My task is to see order in the iconography, through well-defined and definite archaeological material and an internal analysis of the motifs and structures of the iconography on Bronze Age objects.