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World’s oldest dated runestone found in Norway — with mysterious inscription

written by Orie Kanchi, CNN

archaeologist of Norway The world’s oldest runestone has been discovered with runes dating back up to 2,000 years.

Researchers from the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History discovered the stone in fall 2021 while investigating a burial site in the eastern Norwegian city of Hall, according to the museum.

The stone was named “Svingerudsteinen” or “Svingerud Stone” after the place where it was found.

Bones and charcoal that were burned at the crematorium found show that the writing was carved into a reddish-brown sandstone rock, about a foot high and wide, and dated between 1 AD and 250 AD. became.

The runestone was found in a crematorium in eastern Norway. credit: Yetil Nelgard/Nye Vayer

“My colleagues and I at the Museum of Cultural History are very excited about this sensational discovery that will rewrite several chapters of the history of runes,” said runologist Christel, professor of literary culture and iconography at the museum. Gilmer told CNN in an email. on Wednesday.

Gilmer studied and interpreted the inscriptions on the stone, and archaeologists determined its age from radiocarbon dating samples from the tomb where the stone was found.

Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the stone dates between 1 AD and 250 AD.

Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the stone dates between 1 AD and 250 AD. credit: Alexis Pantos/Cultural History Museum/University of Oslo

“Thanks to the possibility of performing radiocarbon dating of the tombs where the stones lay, we have the first clear evidence of the appearance of rune stones in Scandinavia in the first century AD,” she said. added.

ancient language

Runes are the oldest known form of writing in Scandinavia, and according to the university, the alphabet was in widespread use from the beginning of the Common Era (CE) through the Viking Age to the late Middle Ages.

There are thousands of runestones in Scandinavia from the Viking Age (793-1066 AD), but little evidence of earlier runes.

Only about 30 of the runestones found in Norway are believed to be older than about 550 AD.

Svingerudsteinen is the only stone pre-300 AD found by archaeologists. According to the museum, one side contains his first three runic letters: ‘f’, ‘u’ and ‘th’.

stone characteristics "unexpected" inscription.

The stone features an “unexpected” inscription. credit: Alexis Pantos/Cultural History Museum/University of Oslo

“We realized that runestones containing runes from the old futharks (runes) are rarely found in dateable archaeological contexts and that this may give us new knowledge about runes. ‘, said Steinar Solheim, an archaeologist and the museum’s excavation manager. Cultural History told CNN Wednesday. He said the find was “a unique one.”

“This means that the tradition of runestones is probably hundreds of years older than previously assumed. The Scandinavian society of the time,” said Zilmer.

What is idyberg?

According to Gilmer, the stone has a “very special look”, with an “unexpected” mix of thinly cut shallow runes, rune-like characters and other visual motifs. It is characterized by Some are zig-zag, others are lattice.

When romanized, the eight runes on the front of the stone spell “Idiberg”.

According to Gilmer, this may be the name of a woman called “Idibella”, it may refer to a relative named “Idibelung”, or it may say “for Idibella”.

Eight runes on the front of the stone spell "infamous" -- It may be a female name.

Eight runes on the front of the stone spell “idiberug” — presumably a female name. credit: Alexis Pantos/Cultural History Museum/University of Oslo

Because the writing style of the inscriptions varies and the language has also changed greatly over time, interpreting the messages is a difficult task and still requires much research.

Zilmer said he is currently working with a team of academics on a joint academic publication, due out this year, that will present key findings.

The runestone will be on display at the museum from January 21st to February 26th.

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