Archaeologists find ‘world’s oldest runestone’ in Norway – DW – 17/01/2023

Archaeologists find 'world's oldest runestone' in Norway – DW – 17/01/2023
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Archaeologists Norway On Tuesday, they said they found a runestone they believe is the world’s oldest ever discovered.

According to the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, the flat, square block of sandstone has carved inscriptions that may be the oldest known example of words recorded in writing in Scandinavia.

The stone is said to be “one of the oldest runic inscriptions ever found” and “the oldest dated runestone in the world”.

Not the oldest known runes, but the oldest on stone

Ancient runes have been found on other objects, but not on stone. The oldest known runic find is on a bone comb found in Denmark.

“This find will give us a lot of knowledge about the use of runes in the early Iron Age. This may be one of the first attempts to use runes on stone in Norway and Scandinavia,” said Kristel Zilmer, a professor at the University of Oslo. The Associated Press (AP) reports that the museum is a part of it.

Kristel Zilmer, professor of written culture and iconography at the Museum of Cultural History, displays a runestone found in Tyrifjorden, Norway, Thursday, January.  12, 2023.
Kristel Zilmer is professor of written culture and iconography at the Museum of Cultural History in OsloImage: Javad Parsa/AP Photo/image alliance

The rune stone was discovered in the second half of 2021 during a grave excavation near Tyrifjord, west of Oslo. The area is famous for a number of archaeological finds.

“It took us time to analyze and date the runestone,” Zilmer said.

According to the researchers, items found in the cremation pit, such as cremated bones and charcoal, indicate that the runes were written between 1 and 250 AD.

Speaking to Norwegian media, Zilmer said until now there was a broad consensus that the first runes on the stone could have been carved between 300 and 400 AD.

Northern lights photography

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Northern European alphabet before the spread of Latin

The stone measures about 31×32 centimeters (or about 1 square foot) and has several types of inscriptions, some of which have no clear meaning to academics.

Eight runes on the stone spell “idiberug,” which archaeologists believe is the name of a man, woman, or family.

Zilmer told the AP that the discovery was “the most sensational thing I’ve ever had as an academic,” adding that much work could still be done to try to understand more about the object.

A runestone found in Tyrifjorden, Norway is on display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.  12, 2023.
Decipherable runes for archaeologists are thought to be a name; the stone was found in the cemeteryImage: Javad Parsa/AP Photo/image alliance

“There is no doubt that we will gain valuable knowledge about the early history of runic writing,” he said.

The stone will be on display for a month at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, starting on January 21. The building houses Norway’s largest collection of historical artifacts from the Stone Age to modern times.

Runes were symbols of several Germanic alphabets before the introduction of the Latin alphabet. The most common of these is called futhark after the first letters of the alphabet. In the same sense, the word alphabet comes from alpha and beta – for a and b.

msh/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa)

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