Norwegian archaeologists said on Tuesday they had found a runestone which they say is the oldest in the world ever discovered.
The flat, square sandstone block bears carved inscriptions that may be the earliest known example of recorded written words in Scandinavia, the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo has said.
He said the stone was “among the oldest runic inscriptions ever found” and “the oldest datable runestone in the world”.
Not the oldest known runes, but the oldest on stone
Older runes have been found on other objects, but not on stone. The earliest known runic find is on a bone comb found in Denmark.
“This discovery will give us a lot of knowledge about the use of runes in the early Iron Age. This may be one of the first attempts to use runes in Norway and Scandinavia on stone “said Kristel Zilmer, a professor at the University of Oslo. , of which the museum is a part, told The Associated Press (AP).
The runestone was discovered in the second half of 2021 during an excavation of a grave near Tyrifjord, west of Oslo. The region is renowned for a series of archaeological discoveries.
“We needed time to analyze and date the runestone,” Zilmer said.
According to the researchers, objects in the cremation pit – such as burnt bones and charcoal – suggest that the runes were probably inscribed between 1 and 250 AD.
Speaking to Norwegian media, Zilmer said that so far there has been broad consensus that the first runes on stone could have been carved between the years 300 and 400 AD.
North European alphabet before the spread of Latin
The stone measures approximately 31 by 32 centimeters (or about 1 square foot) and has several types of inscriptions, some of which have no clear meaning to scholars.
Eight runes on the stone read “idiberug”, which archaeologists say is probably the name of a man, woman or family.
Zilmer told AP that the find was “the most sensational thing I’ve had, as an academic,” saying there’s still a lot of work to be done to try to better understand the object.
“Undoubtedly, we will gain valuable insights into the ancient history of runic writing,” she said.
The stone will be on display for a month at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, starting January 21. The building houses Norway’s largest collection of historical artifacts, from the Stone Age to modern times.
Runes were the characters of several Germanic alphabets before the advent of the Latin alphabet. The most common of them is also called futhark, after the first letters of the alphabet. Along the same lines, the word alphabet comes from alpha and beta – for a and b.
msh/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa)