The find was discovered near a volcano that erupted about 1,100 years ago, LiveScience reports. The Vikings had recently colonized Iceland. Probably, the activity of the volcano caused anxiety among the new settlers and made them believe in the imminent end of the world - Ragnerök, when chthonic monsters will fight with the gods, and the whole world will drown in flames.
As the study showed, when the lava cooled down, the Vikings entered the cave and built a boat-shaped structure of stones. There they made sacrifices, burning the bones of animals: sheep, goats, cattle, horses and pigs. Nearby, archaeologists have discovered beads, some of them from the Middle East, and the remains of a rare in Scandinavian mineral, arsenic, from which yellow paint was made in the past.
Judging by historical records, in the view of the Vikings, this cave was associated with Surt - a fire giant. According to Norse mythology, the end of the world will come when on the day of Ragnarok Surt kills the god of fertility Freyr, and his sword cuts down the world tree Yggdrasil. It is likely that the Vikings brought rare goods from the Middle East to the cave to appease Surt and keep it from destruction. Or they wanted to strengthen Frey's spirit in this way.
Christianity came to Iceland about 1000 years ago, and the cave was abandoned. The last items brought here were a set of weights for the scales, one of which was shaped like a Christian cross. Nevertheless, even after the adoption of Christianity, the belief that this cave is associated with the end of the world remained with the Irish. Only now this cave was considered the place where Satan would appear on the Day of Judgment.
The study is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.