Medieval Carved Ship Images Found in Nordic Churches: the poor man's votive ships?



The so-called ship graffiti found inside Catholic churches of the Scando-Baltic region may not only be graffiti. The author suggests that some may have been carved with votive intent in sacred spaces by people without greater means. The reason could have been a particular sea journey feared by sailors or their families. Actual proofs may be difficult to obtain due to the lack of inscriptions stating a particular intention, but in a Gotlandic church one ship image is accompanied by a prayer for what seems to have been its crew. This alternative interpretation appears to be in line with a current archaeological focus on the contextual polysemy of all kinds of ‘prehistoric’ pictures.