5th Century Rune Stone Found

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Most rune stones are written with the late 16-character futhark and date from the 11th century when the Scandies had largely been Christianised. Their inscriptions tend to be formulaic: “Joe erected the stone after Jim his father who was a very good man”. But by that time, runic writing was already 900 years old. It’s just that inscriptions in the early 24-character futhark are much less common. And when you find them, their messages are usually far less straight-forward.

My buddy Frans Arne Stylegar reports in a series of blog entries [12345] on the discovery, less than two weeks ago, of a 5th century rune stone at Hogganvik in Mandal municipality, Vest-Agder county, Norway. Nothing similar has been found in Norway since WW2. And it’s an exceptionally long inscription — 63 runes!

The message hasn’t received detailed philological treatment yet, but so much is clear that the stone was erected by one Naudigastir in memory of a man who may have been his proto-feudal lord (or was it the other way around?). It is thus the same genre of memorial text as the 11th century rune stones that are so common in the Stockholm and Uppsala area. And it’s going to give the runologists a lot to think about.

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11 thoughts on “5th Century Rune Stone Found

  1. were there many scandinavians living in mannesota around that time?
    I’d hazard a guess they’re faked for tourists, or something entirely different … like (and I have no clue who or what lived in what’s now the US, back then) pre-historic native indians (probably not at all like the indian culture we so mercilessly crushed)? Or even that may be a leap … anyone know who lived, then, in what’s now the US?

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  2. The 4th century is a prehistoric period in the US, but the people living there at the time were ancestors of the tribes that the Europeans encountered from the 16th century onward. They spoke earlier versions of languages that still live.

    (Greg’s just foolin’.)

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  3. Tom, if you’re interested in what was going on in the Americas before European contact, a very readable and thorough book is 1491, by Charles Mann.

    Martin, how was the stone dated, aside from the runes? I don’t read Norwegian (or was that Swedish?)

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  4. There’s even a “rune” stone in Oklahoma which — surprise! — doesn’t look anything like this one. A handful of Scandinavians made it to what’s now Nova Scotia before Columbus reached America. But I’m pretty sure none of them wandered down to Oklahoma and left this rock or this inscription. But the locals all swear it’s authentic.

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