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Archaeologists in Norway discover ‘world’s oldest runestone’

Jan 17


Archaeologists with the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway announced the discovery of what it is calling “the oldest datable runestone in the world.” According to a tweet announcing the discovery, the museum said inscriptions on the stone are up to 2,000 years old and date back to the earliest days of the enigmatic history of runic writing.

Runes are the characters in several Germanic alphabets that were used in northern Europe from ancient times until the adoption of the Latin alphabet. They have been found on stones and different household objects.

The runestone was discovered last fall during an excavation of a grave near Tyrifjord, west of Oslo. The region is known for several monumental archaeological finds.

Dubbed the Svingerud stone after the site where archaeologists in Norway found it, the world’s oldest runestone measures 12.2 inches by 12.6 inches. It has several types of inscriptions and not all make linguistic sense. Eight runes on the front of the stone read “idiberug” — which could be the name of a woman, a man or a family.

Items in the cremation pit indicate that the runes likely were inscribed between A.D. 1 and 250. Older runes have been found on other items, but not on stone. The earliest runic find is on a bone comb found in Denmark.

“This find will give us a lot of knowledge about the use of runes in the early Iron Age,” Kristel Zilmer, a professor at University of Oslo that worked with the museum on the runestone discovery, told The Associated Press. “This may be one of the first attempts to use runes in Norway and Scandinavia on stone.”

The runestone will be exhibited at the museum for a month, starting on Jan. 21. There is still a lot of research to be done on the rock.

“Without doubt, we will obtain valuable knowledge about the early history of runic writing,” Zilmer said.

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