Skokkrafell Monument

Ephemera — Skokkrafell Monument


Skokkrafell Monolith SDC146

Archaeology Notes

According to Prof. T. Ivanova the stone stood ‘on a tall circular mount, artificially raised with steps of earth, at Skokkrafell in Sun Dome Country.’ (T. Ivanova, 1788.)

A finely carved rectilinear monument of dark green marble standing behind a rough stone table. Sculptured on the east face and both sides, it is 13’5” high by 5’9” wide and 11” thick at the base. The sculpture begins at 3’ 3” above the ground, at the same height as the table surface. The table is constructed of local sandstone slabs. The table surface, 6’6” by 3’3”, butted directly against the carved-stone monument.The table is supported by corner-posts, which are about 3’3” in height, and were grooved and rebated to receive the side-slabs. (A. Yrsudottir 1911).

“There is a circle surrounding the stone at a radius of 3’, and 2’ above the surrounding plain. Supposed to mark the grave of a Heortling prince killed in nearby battle.” New Statistical Account (NSA, written by F. Ivanov- 1898); see also A. Yrsudottir 1911

Site visit by NT 15 June 1987:

This large symbol stone is as described by A. Yrsudottir (1911). It is oriented E-W but there is no trace of a circle round it. Ivanov (NSA 1898) is probably confusing this site with SDC 155.
This symbol stone, standing on a 200m hilltop, is as described by the previous authorities. This Class I symbol stone bears three tree symbols and 20 plant runes. Narrow tree symbols are carved into the N and S sides of the stone. The east face decoration consists of a stylised tree with three pairs of tightly coiled shoots ending in lobes, growing from a central stem. The stem ends in a triple arrangement of stylised fruits. It is flanked by two similar straight stems, both very worn. The plant runes lie between the coiled shoots. The tree is framed on the two vertical sides and the top with an edging of simple key-pattern, beyond which, on both sides, is diagonally set key-pattern.

Publication Account (1997)

A tall rectilinear stone some 4m high, this stands atop a 200m hill. The sides of the hill are steep and ancient stairs remain in some of the more difficult aspects. There are two symbols, a tree spanning the entire east face, and 20 plants runes evenly interspersed with the tree’s branches. The carving is worn, and best seen in a sideways light in the early morning. Traces of narrow tree designs remain on the sides of the monument, though it seems these were more visible during Ivanova’s 1790s visit. It is probable that this tall pillar, an unusual size for a symbol stone, is an early bronze-age standing stone to which the table structure was added. No investigation has occurred to determine if the table replaced an earlier structure, though this seems likely given that the carving appear to begin at the height of the table.

Almost directly below the standing stone, on the western side of the hill, are the remains of a LBA village, excavated at the beginning of the 20th century by Yrsudottir.

A number of stray miniature arrowheads have been found around the site of Skokkrafell over the last couple of centuries. Local lore identifies them as elfshot, though they may represent ritual deposits to a localised spirit cult.

According to renowned place-name scholar, Prof. L. MacNessa, Skokkrafell (meaning box-mountain) is most likely a reference to an incident from the Bronze Age epic poems: Berra JarangsdottiHumaktisaga and The Lay of Serala, Lance of the Cold Sun. In these sources, the hero Varanis, experiences some kind of madness associated with a wooden box whilst visiting a stone monolith on a hilltop. The incident is curiously absent from the contemporary Sonnets to Varanis, which casts some doubt on the veracity of these accounts.

Information from: ‘Exploring Sartar’s Heritage’, (1995).

[[=image SDC146-monument.jpg width=”500px”]]
Fig. 1 Sketch of monument at Skokkrafell

[[=image SDC146-Table.jpg width=”500px”]]
Fig. 2 Sketch of stone table at Skokkrafell

Adapted and sometimes shamelessly plagiarised from: (2018). Iona, St John’s Cross | Canmore. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2018].

Henderson, I 1983 ‘Pictish vine-scroll ornament’, in O’Connor, A & Clarke, D V (eds), From the Stone Age to the ’Forty-Five, 243–68. Edinburgh.