Archaeologists in Norway have discovered a rune stone in Tyrefjord that they say is “the oldest in the world”. A piece of sandstone, measuring 31 by 32 cm, inscribed with letters said to be about 2,000 years old. This is hundreds of years older than the characters in the rune stones found earlier.
The scientists’ findings were announced today at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. “This will increase our knowledge of the use of runic writing in the early Iron Age. This would have been one of the first attempts in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia to put runes on stone,” said Professor Christel Zillmer of the University of Oslo. “We now have to investigate the stone. and further history.”
The runic script, as far as is known, is the oldest text from Scandinavia. Rune stones, stones with writing etched on them, are mainly found as tombstones from Viking times. Ancient runic writings have been found, for example on pieces of bone that were used as tools, but never on stone.
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The stone in question – dubbed the Svingerud stone – was found in the fall of 2021 when excavating an ancient cemetery near Lake Tyrifjord, northwest of Oslo. Archaeological finds have often been found in the area. A railway had to be built and so the cemetery was cleared. Carbon analysis of the wood and bones found in the tomb showed that the tomb was constructed sometime between AD 1 and 250. Scientists assumed that the first rune stones appeared in the years 300-400, but this discovery may change that idea.
On a piece of sandstone measuring 31 by 32 cm there are various marks. Eight runes are united on one side of the stone, which is translated into the Latin alphabet: “Idiberug”. Norwegian researchers believe that it could be the name of a man, woman or family. Zelmer calls the discovery “the most exciting thing I, as an academic, have ever experienced.”
The stone is on display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo from January 21 to February 26.
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