Only 30 runestones have been found dating around 500-CE. This newly-uncovered runestone, called Svingerudsteinen after the Svingerud site where it was found, is definitely the oldest. This is according to carbon dating done on the charcoal and samples from the cremation pit where the stone was found, which place the stone AD 300. By analyzing the stone, Zilmer thinks archaeologists can learn more about the early development of runic writing and how they have evolved over time.
In the last week of December five runic inscriptions were unearthed during excavation in Oslo's old town. One inscription is carved on bone and this is the first set of ancient runes found in Oslo in more than forty years. The second is carved on and contains a religious text in both Norse and Latin. The two runic inscriptions appeared shortly after the discovery of a decorated knife handle.
Interpreting runic inscriptions is not always a straightforward task. Inscriptions may be incomplete, and the reason for inscribing a particular text may remain for the most part unknown. Kristel Zilmer, professor of written culture (runology) and iconography at the University of Oslo, has looked at both inscriptions and produced an initial interpretation.
First bone with runic inscription found in Oslo in more than forty years
The first find is a of bone with thirteen runes on one side and a single rune on the other. The main inscription reads basmar bær bæin which can either relate to the name of a person who owned (i.e., used) the bone or can describe the type of bone," she says. the last four runes bæin (Old Norse bein which means "bone") refer to the bone itself. “But our understanding of the whole text on how we interpret the first part of the inscription," Zilmer informs. Basmarbær may contain the genitive form Mardar, which can be explained as the Scandinavian name Mår / Mård. To this, one has added the name element 'bas'. 'Bas' as the first element in names is unusual. However, something similar can found in a gravestone inscription from Skålvoll, as Bäts, which is genitive of the nickname Båtr, i.e., boat. If this is the case, then the text can mean Boat-Mård's
The reason for writing on the item was not necessarily to show ownership of it, but maybe Mård sat there with free time after eating a meal, and used the opportunity to turn the leftover dinner into a writing tablet?
The other interpretation is that the word is related to bås-maröartkin, meaning sheep-bone; Marör occurs in Old Norse as a peculiar poetic term for ram. The bone does not appear to be a sheep but rather from a horse or a cow. Is the misleading inscription meant to entertain Zilmer wonders. Short runic texts on bones have been found in other Norwegian and Scandinavian medieval towns, but this is the first found in Oslo in more than forty-years.
Runes carved in wood containing religious text in Norse and Latin
The second find is a flat of with inscription on three of its sides. The object is slightly damaged, but it is to see that the text combines religious texts in Latin and Old Norse.
On one side, we notice two words in Latin: Manus and Domine or Domini. Manus means "hand" and Dominus "lord”. This is part of a well-known Latin prayer formula: In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum ("Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit"), known as Jesus' last words on the cross, says Zilmer.
The Old Norse text on the second side includes the name Bryngærör. On the third (narrow) side eight small runes can make sense either as a statement in Latin or a continuation of the text in Old Norse. In the latter case, this may the phrase "it is true".
A possible interpretation is that the inscription contains a short prayer telling the reader about Bryngærör who commended herself into the hands of God. Similar phrases are found in some church inscriptions from Norway and Gotland. The most interesting example is from Urnes Stave Church in Norway where the runic inscription in Old Norse says “May the holy Lord hold (His) hand over Brynjulffs spirit. May it be true.” This message is very reminiscent of the text carved onto the wooden object.
The bone may relate to the earliest period of settlement says Mark Oldham, project leader of the excavation. "We cannot yet say exactly how old these new rune finds are, but scientific tests will hopefully provide the answers," Oldham continues. Similar runic finds in Norway date to the period 1100-1350 CE, while some are older. It may be possible however, to date the texts by examining the spelling and use of certain characters. “The use of so-called dotted runes on the stick, as well as the distinction between a-rune and æ-rune are characteristic features of medieval runes," Zilmer says.
We already know of 85 loose-object runic inscriptions from medieval Oslo. In comparison, more than 680 similar discoveries have made in Bergen. The vast majority of rune finds have been made in connection with excavations, and in Oslo most of the known runic artefacts were found during the 1970s and 80s.
The bone and the wood fragment represent two main categories of rune-inscribed objects from medieval Norwegian towns. Each new find is unique and important in its own right and helps bring us closer to the deeds and words of medieval people.
Archaeologists have found the oldest known runestone in Olso, Norway during an archaeological dig near the Tyrifjorden lake.
Runestones are ancient stones with inscriptions, usually in the Norse language, that were erected in various parts of Scandinavia and the British Isles during the Viking Age. The discovery was made in 2021, when researchers that were excavating an ancient burial ground near the lake found it among one of the burial sites, according to Heritage Daily. The researchers found the stone at one of the burials where they also found cremated human bones, charcoal and runestone, dating back to the Iron Age.
What was on the runestone?
Carved into the stone are eight runes which have been interpreted as a name in a Proto-Germanic language, pre-dating Old Norse, which spelled Idibera or other variations of it. "The text possibly refers to a woman called Idibera and the inscription may mean 'For Idibera,'" Professor Kristel Zilmer from the Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo said. "Other possibilities are that Idiberug reproduces a name such as Idibergu/Idiberga, or perhaps the family name Idiberung." "The stone has several kinds of outlines. Some lines for a checkered pattern, there are small zigzag figures and other interesting things. Not all of the outlines make linguistic sense," he continued. "We may get the impression that someone has imitated, explored, or played with writing. Maybe someone was learning how to carve runes.