What Norwegian archaeologists believe is the world’s oldest runestone, a block of sandstone inscribed with an early Scandinavian alphabet, has gone on display in Oslo. It may date back to the time of Jesus Christ.
The runestone is almost 2,000 years old and several centuries older than previous discoveries.
The square brown sandstone stone, measuring about 30×30 centimeters, was found during the excavation of an ancient burial site in late 2021 near Tyrifjorden, in eastern Norway, ahead of construction work on a railway line.
Carbon dating of bones and wood fragments found in a grave next to the rune suggests it was inscribed sometime between AD 1 and 250, Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History said.
The discovery, named the Svingerudsstenen after the farm where it was found, is “a dream for runologists”, the museum said.
– We thought that the first ones in Norway and Sweden appeared in 300 or 400, but it turns out that some runestones may be even older than we previously thought, says runologist Kristel Zilmer to the Norwegian news agency NTB.
“It’s a unique discovery,” she said.
Archaeologists looking at the stone outside did not at first realize that the stone was covered in faint markings, Zilmer wrote on Twitter this week.
When transliterated into the Latin alphabet, the inscription on the rune forms the unknown word “idiberug”.
“The text may refer to a woman named Idibera and the inscription may mean ‘For Idibera,’” Zilmer suggested, although she stressed that scholars are not sure what the markings mean.
Some of the inscriptions appear to be abstract lines and patterns rather than letters. “Maybe someone learned how to carve runes,” Zilmer said.
The Svingerudsstenen is on display at the Cultural History Museum in Oslo from January 21 to February 26.
The challenge of preserving Sudan’s rich heritage for future generations Necropolis in Corsica gives a rare insight into the life of ancient population