Discovery in Norway of oldest runic stone

Inscriptions in the alphabet adopted by the peoples of northern Europe and Scandinavia, approximately 1,900 years old, remain ambiguous.

by Hervé Morin

that the one who, nearly two millennia has to say, has engraved a few characters in a runic alphabet on a red sandstone block of around thirty centimeters, before burying it in a fall located in eastern Norway? Registration will feed the discussions between specialists in the ancient runic, this writing adopted at the beginning of the Christian era by the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples.

The stone in question, called “Pierre de Sivingerud” in reference to the site in which it was discovered, in the fall of 2021, on the occasion of archaeological excavations prior to the construction of a road, made the Object of an exhibition at the Cultural History Museum at the University of Oslo. She is qualified by her discoverers as “older runestone”. The samples of charcoal and bone from the cremation pit where it was uncovered are dated to the radiocarbon between 25 and 250 AD.

“What is very exciting is that this discovery differs from other preserved runic stones, and that it offers the potential to rewrite the first chapter of the Runic tradition, probably older than we thought” , indicates the runologist Kristtel Zilmer, professor of written culture and iconography at the Museum of Cultural History of the University of Oslo. If Scandinavia has several thousand stones with runic inscriptions dating from the Viking era (793-1066), only about fifty of them dates from before 550, and the stone of Svlorig is the only one to have been discovered in An archaeological context offering a solid dating before the year 300.

Contact with the Roman Empire

The runic alphabet, used up to around 1400, was probably born from the contact of the German and Scandinavian peoples with the Roman Empire. It is inspired by the Latin alphabet while distinguishing itself. “It was initially essentially an epigraphic tool, engraved on stone or objects, and limited by the size of these, recalls Kristel Zilmer, even if in the medieval Christian era, from the XI e century, it is found in manuscripts or correspondence. “

Some inscriptions combine the twenty-four characters of the old Futhark, thus named in reference to the first six letters of this alphabet, three of which are on a portion of the new runic stone: ᚠ (f), ᚢ (u ) and ᚦ (TH). This also includes zigzags, a form of grid, and marks that evoke “scribbles, perhaps made by someone who learned to write runes”, advances Kristel Zilmer.

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/Media reports cited above.