A routine home renovation just outside the city of Randers in Denmark, turned into something out of a fantasy-treasure novel. A young couple stumbled upon a sizable runestone just as they were removing the old linoleum kitchen floors! Measuring a whopping 2 meters (6.5 ft) in length, and 80 centimeters in width, the ancient stone might be recognized as one of Denmark’s oldest runestones!
Dating the National Treasure: Ascertaining the Positioning of the Rune
Designated as ‘danefæ’, or a national treasure, by the esteemed Nationalmuseet, the stone is currently undergoing extensive analysis to determine its precise age. The dating of the stone holds paramount importance, as it would ascertain whether the five runes engraved on it initiate or conclude the inscription, reports The Viking Herald .
The five runes, forming the phrase “aft bi,” translate to “after B.” In the context of runestones, which were traditionally erected to commemorate significant individuals, this particular inscription alludes to the possibility of honoring someone named Bjørn, Bjarne, or Birk. Derived from Old Norse , the term “rune” connotes ” secret knowledge and wisdom .”
Five runes on the stone could be the beginning or end of an inscription. ( The National Museum of Denmark )
“The more floor we removed, the larger the stone appeared. I’m a little proud that it was found here and that we managed to get it transported out of the house in one piece,” said Lene Brandt, one half of the couple whose home was undergoing renovation (her husband is Anders Nielsen, the other half).
Should the runes signify the beginning of the text, this remarkable find would likely belong to Denmark’s earliest collection of rune stones, making it extremely rare and valuable. The vicinity surrounding Randers has piqued the interest of runic enthusiasts due to the unearthing of as many as 44 runestones.
According to Lisbeth Imer, a senior researcher and runologist at the Nationalmuseet, the number of runestones discovered in Denmark from the 700-800s is estimated to be between 10 and 20. Throughout the country, approximately 200 Viking Age runestones have been documented, with the oldest originating from the 700s and the most recent from the 900s, making these early specimens particularly significant. The famed Jelling Stones , erected around 965, stand as prime examples of such stones.
Here the runestone is lifted onto a truck heading for the Museum Østjylland. (Lene Brandt/ DR)
Randers Runestone vs the Jelling Stones: A Worthy Comparison?
While the Randers runestone may predate the Jelling Stones, a direct comparison proves challenging due to several factors. The Jelling stones are intact, situated in their original location, and documented in historical sources. In contrast, the Randers stone exists as a fragment, with only a small portion of the inscription preserved, reports Arkeonews.
The Jelling Stones, located in Jelling, Denmark, are a pair of large runestones that hold immense historical and cultural significance. These stones are iconic symbols of Viking Age art and history. The Jelling Stones consist of the North Stone and the South Stone, with the North Stone being the larger of the two, standing approximately 2.7 meters tall (8.85 ft), while the South Stone measures around 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) in height. They are prominently positioned within the Jelling complex, which also includes burial mounds and an early Christian church.
Erected around 965 by King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark, the Jelling Stones were created to commemorate the conversion of the Danes to Christianity and to glorify the rule of King Harald and his ancestors. The stones feature intricate carvings and inscriptions in the form of runic script. These inscriptions serve as declarations of the achievements and deeds of King Harald and his father, King Gorm the Old, as well as marking the introduction of Christianity in Denmark.
Currently residing at Museum Østjylland, the Randers runestone awaits further analysis to unravel its age and potentially shed more light on the Viking era. Ascertaining its age will help determine whether the runes form the starting or the end of the inscription.
Top image: The runestone discovered in Randers, Denmark is likely older than the Jelling stones. Source: Lene Brandt/ DR
By Sahir Pandey
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