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The Road to Runes

The Road to Runes News: Possible Oldest Runestone Found in Norway

What could possibly be the oldest known rune stone has been found in Norway by archaeologists from the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. The stone is a chunk of sandstone, with clear examples of Elder Futhark runes inscribed upon it.

The Historical Museum, connected to the University of Oslo, is calling this find “…a runic scholar’s dream.” The stone will be on display at the museum until February 26th.

What are Runestones?

The term runestone can be applied to any piece of rock that is found with runic inscriptions on it. There are thousands of runestones across Scandinavia that have been discovered so far. Runestones also appear in other places in the world, notably places visited by Vikings, or Norse colonisers or raiders. These places include England, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, and the Faroe Islands.

Runestones are important because they are an indication of how runes were used in the past, for both everyday and more formal purposes. For those who use runes today, for divinatory or religious purposes, this can aid in a deeper understanding of runes and their meanings.

Why is This Runestone Significant?

One of the most significant aspects of this find is that it could be the oldest runestone yet discovered. The stone was found in a grave, with other grave goods that have been subjected to radiocarbon dating which shows that the items are between 1800 and 2000 years old. This places the stone’s origins in the Roman Iron Age, making it one of the earliest examples of written runes in Scandinavia, and the oldest rune stone discovered so far.

The vast majority of runestones are from the Viking Age, which ran from 793 to 1066 CE (common era). This newly discovered stone dates from between 0 and 200 CE, making it significantly older than most other runestones.

The stone was actually found in 2021, but knowledge about the find wasn’t made widely available until January 2023. This is because the team working on discovering more about the stone wanted to have concrete information about its age and possible meanings of the runes.

What is Written on the Svingerudsteinen, The Svingerud Stone?

The stone is named for where it was found, Svingerud, near Lake Tyri or Tyrifjorden which lies to the West of Oslo, the Norwegian capital. The stone itself has several inscriptions on, the most notable being runes that spell out “Idibera”. There’s already discourse and debate over what this could mean. It could be a woman’s name, a family name, or something else completely. It could even be the name of the person that was buried in the grave the stone was found in.

2021 was a good year for runic finds, as archaeologists also discovered a stick and a bone both inscribed with runes later that winter, most likely from the Middle Ages. For runic scholars, though, Svingerudsteinen is such a valuable find in terms of very early runic writing.

(Photo credit: Alexis Pantos/KHM, UiO.)



About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist and content creator. She’s a nature-based witch, obsessed with Irish and British Paganism and Folklore, plus she’s a massive plant nerd. She’s also a long-time Hekate devotee and a newbie Lokean. She works extensively with the UK Pagan Federation, including editing their bi-annual children’s magazine. Mabh is a passionate environmentalist and an advocate for inclusiveness and positive social transformation.

Mabh is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors,  Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways, and most recently, Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living. Search “Mabh Savage” on Spotify and @Mabherick on all socials.