There are about 3,000 runestones in Scandinavia (out of a total of about 6,000 runic inscriptions). This runestone was uncovered outside the capital of Oslo in 2021 ahead of construction on a railway line. This is probably the world’s oldest runestone – and found in Norway.
The Norwegian researchers believe it is the oldest runestone as yet discovered. They say the inscriptions are up to 2,000 years old and date back to the earliest days of runic writing.
The runestone was found in a flat field grave, under a burial mound, in a burial ground by Tyrifjorden northwest of Oslo in Hole municipality. Findings in the tomb make it possible to date the stone’s inscriptions to between the years 1 and 250.
The World’s Oldest Runestone Uncovered in Norway – read on….
A square brown sandstone rock
The square brown sandstone rock, measuring about 30 by 30 centimeters (12 by 12 inches) has carved inscriptions which may be the earliest known example of words recorded in writing in Scandinavia, according to the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. This is, however, not the oldest known runes, but the oldest on stone. The earliest known runic find is on a comb made of bone found in Denmark.
Normally erected at gravesites, especially during the Viking era, runes are stones inscribed with runic letters, the oldest alphabet known in Scandinavia.
A dream for runologists
The discovery, which could date from the time of Jesus Christ, is “a dream for runologists”, who study ancient runic alphabets, inscriptions and their history.
Related: Top 8 Norse Mythology Resources for Students Studying Runic Writing System
“We thought that the first runes in Norway and Sweden appeared in the years 300 or 400, but it turns out that some runestones could be even older than we previously believed”, runologist Kristel Zilmer, a professor at the University of Oslo, of which the museum is a part, told Norwegian news agency NTB.
“This find 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,” she told the Associated Press (AP).
The runestone will go on display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo through February 26 2023.
The World’s Oldest Runestone Uncovered in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg