Bone game pieces from Saaremaa. Salme village neighbourhood

Game piece 2

The figure of a snake and the neck and head of an elk decorated with boat-shaped antlers may clearly be identified on the game piece. The mythological sun elk together with a (sun) boat have been a common motif on Stone Age rock carvings in the arctic and sub-arctic regions. Often the figures of the elk and the snake are supplemented with contours of a wriggling snake. Also Scandinavian pictographs from later periods of the Vendel and the Viking Age sometimes depict the motif of an elk fighting with the snake. According to Olaus Magnus (1490 – 1557), a Swedish diplomat and writer, sakes and billygoats (probably reference to reindeer) were eternal archenemies. The billygoats hit sakes out of their hiding places with their claws, trampled them to death and then chewed down the bodies of their enemies. Figures of curled sakes and elks have also been depicted on early Birka coins. The motif of an elk fighting the snake has passed on to later periods, too: in Christian tradition the snake is the symbol of evil, the Satan, the victorious elk symbolises Christ and heavenly powers of light.