You’ll have to look closely to find the ancient Tinganes Compass Rose, etched into the rocks on the Tinganes peninsula.
Tinganes Compass Rose
Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
GPS: 62.007435, -6768741
Many people go looking for the Tinganes Compass Rose, but never find it.
As you walk out onto the rocks at the very tip of the Tinganes peninsula for the fantastic view, what you might not realize is that quite literally, you might be walking on history.
If you search closely, you will find several ancient engravings.
Though still a challenge to initially find, the largest, and easiest to spot of these engravings is a large circle divided into segments.
The most commonly heard theory, is that this marking was used as a sun dial, carved by Vikings in the 10th century, so that the men could know when parliament, or the Ting, began and finished.
If you visit this site at most hours of the day, you will see the faint outline of this large circle. So it does, kind of, look like a sundial.
If this was a sundial, these segments would be called “økt”s and would represent 1/8th of the day = 3 hours.
But these segments are evenly spaced and are spread the full 360 degrees around the circle. That is not how sundials work. It is also missing the center hole for a shadow-stick. For these reasons, and more, it is agreed among historians that this is, indeed, a compass rose.
If you visit this engraving at just the right time, when the sun is at just the right angle, more details of the engraving suddenly become clearly visible.
The most visible telltale signs of this being a compass:
- – East, West, and South have extended lines from the circle with a cross at one end
(This cross on the East side of the East-West axis symbolized the direction of the Holy Land)
- – A French lily flower, or fleur-de-lis, pointing north, which was customary in Dutch cartography in the 15 to 1700s
It is unclear who made this engraving. But chances are it was either a Faroese person who sailed with the Dutch, or a Dutch sailor.
In 1972 a historian could read the year “1569” directly under the compass rose, but that engraving is no longer visible today.
And there is yet another, possibly even older, compass rose on the other side of the building.
(GPS: 62.007847, -6.769432)
This one has been partially covered by the building, so it hasn’t had as much foot traffic walking on it, so the engraving is a but more defined.
The presence of these compass roses speaks of the major importance of Tórshavn as a commercial center in the 1500’s.
Similar compass roses are also seen on rocks in Norway, Sweden and Finland, which are from 1500 to 1700.
In Norway, compass roses were used as guides, when ships needed to orient their travel directions while in thick fog or bad weather.
The Faroes were known for the thick fog, and were actually referred to by sailors at the time as ‘the foggy islands.’
If you search closely on the rocky peninsula of Tinganes, you will find even more engravings and runes that do date back to the first Ting.
These engravings are mere shadows of their original forms.
Though rain and harsh weather are the original culprits, an increase in foot-traffic from unaware leisurely strollers and tourists has accelerated their erasure.
In just a few more decades, all of these markings could be lost completely.
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