On 17 January 2023, professor Kristel Zilmer, on behalf of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo (part of the University of Oslo), reported to the Associated Press (AP) the discovery of what is possibly the oldest runestone unearthed in Scandinavia, dating from ca. 1-250 AD.
Until now, the academic consensus was that runes started to be carved in stone in Scandinavia only during the IVth century AD. This discovery has the potential to rewrite the comprehension of Iron Age Scandinavia.
Older objects with runic inscriptions in materials other than stone were already known – the earliest runic inscription in Scandinavia was carved in a bone comb from Denmark.
The object was discovered years ago, in the second half of 2021, in an excavation of a grave around Tyrifjord, but it took time to analyse the objects, according to Zilmer.
Items found in the cremation pit, including charcoal and burnt bones, allowed the inscription to be dated.
The Svingerud stone
The Svingerud stone, as the artefact is being called, is a square, flat block of brownish sandstone measuring ca. 31-32 cm.
Between some inscriptions whose meaning was unclear, eight runes in the Elder Futhark can be read:
It has been suggested that the word is a proper name of an individual or family. The runes may have been carved with the tip of a knife or a needle.
The runestone will be exhibited for a month at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo from 21 January.
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