new archaeological Viking finds

New finds | Riksantikvarieämbetet

Every year, previously unknown runic inscriptions are discovered. Runverket systematically registers, examines and publishes them. We are therefore interested in receiving information on all new runic finds made around the country of Sweden.

2018

2018 offered an unusually large number of rune finds of very diverse character. The most spectacular was the rediscovery of the Sö 91 rune stone at Stora Tidö outside Eskilstuna in Södermanland, which had been missing since the late 17th century. The stone was uncovered in August during excavation work for a new cycle path, but was then covered in mud. The carving was only discovered a few days later after a rainstorm by a cyclist passing the site.

For various reasons, the stone could not be erected where it was found, but was instead placed next to the road a few hundred metres to the southwest, where it was erected in November 2018.

The tidal island stone So 91 in its new location shortly after its erection. Photo Magnus Källström

The inscription reads:

: ikulfʀ : auk : uasati : raistu : stain : þansi : aftiʀ : buka : au- · sikstin : þuþ : hialbi : salu : þiʀ-
“Ingulv and Visäte erected this stone after Bugge and Sigsten. God help their souls.”

In connection with the renovation of Lena Church in Uppland, two previously unknown fragments of the rune stones U 1027 and U 1028 were discovered, and the lost U 1029 was found lying as a stepping stone in the bricked-up door to the nave. On the inside of the church wall, only a section of the runic band with four runes remains, while the rest of the stone surface is completely worn out. To make the carving visible, a light well was created in the church floor with a plexiglass panel and trailing light.

Some previously unknown rune stones were also discovered in Uppland in 2018. These are a small sandstone fragment with a ʀ- or m-runic from Eggeby in Spånga and two smaller sandstone fragments from Husby-Sjuhundra church. The most remarkable, however, is the rune block that was discovered on Drottningsholm golf course on Lovö. This carving is unfortunately very indistinct and damaged and therefore required careful cleaning with technical spirits over a long period of time. The inscription has therefore not yet been finally investigated.

Another remarkable find is a fragment of an ornate limestone mound from Helgarö church in Södermanland. It was supposedly found back in 2015 during the rebuilding of the churchyard wall, but only became known in autumn 2018. The fragment, which measures 57 × 40 cm and is 10 cm thick, is carved on two sides and should have belonged to a funerary monument of the Late Viking Age type (previously often called Eskilstuna Chest). The fragment has no inscription.

The ornate limestone shell from Helgarö church. Photo Magnus Källström

The dozens of medieval runic inscriptions carved on the edge of the shelf and in the lining of a choir case in Lye Church on Gotland are also among the finds of 2018. The inscriptions include a number of names, but also some more difficult to read and as yet uninterpreted runic sequences.

In 2017, we recorded five previously unknown rune stone fragments, three of which bear runes. The first find was made back in early February at Spånga Church in connection with the rebuilding of part of the cemetery wall. It is a small piece of sandstone with the two runes (ai). Later, two more sandstone fragments with ornamentation were found in the same wall. The fragments are very small, but should have belonged to different rune stones. A report on the investigation at Spånga Church and the eight rune stone fragments that have been found in recent years has been available for some time in Samla.

Another fragment comes from Vada church and bears only a few runes. However, the fact that the fragment belongs to a previously known rune stone makes it possible to determine with a high degree of probability the context in which they were included.

Vada och Spånga

Newly found rune stone fragments from Vada and Spånga churches in Uppland. Photo Magnus Källström

A fifth rune carved fragment was found in October in Vårfrukyrkan in Skänninge in Östergötland and was examined by Runverket in April 2018. From all appearances, it is a recumbent mound or a cover mound for a late Viking Age funerary monument. Curiously, the fragment bears runes on both sides, but the carving on one side is probably to be understood as a discarded carving. Only a few runes have been preserved on the mound: …i-… on one side and …k-… on the other.

A previously unknown plaster carving has been found in connection with the renovation of Ganthem’s church on Gotland, and in early July a piece of the previously lost U 168 from Björkeby, Östra Ryds sn, was also found inlaid in the cemetery wall of Östra Ryds church.

The most remarkable find, however, is an oval lead plate measuring about 8 x 7 cm with five rows of medieval runes, which was found during an archaeological survey at Pryssgården in Norrköping. The inscription has not yet been interpreted in its entirety, but everything indicates that it is a meaningful inscription in Fornsvenska.

In 2016, 7 new runic inscriptions and one rediscovery were registered. Already in January the bottom of a niche in Solna church outside Stockholm was noticed. The find attracted a lot of attention despite the fact that the inscription is rather prosaic. The larger fragment reads …a : stan : þi…, which means “…(res)a this stone …”, while the other fragment bears the runes …is… Possibly there may be one or two runes on this fragment that are still hidden by plaster and paint.

In early August, a larger fragment of a previously unknown rune stone was found on a plot of land in Norrby in Österhaninge, Södermanland. It had previously been laid as a stepping stone and is therefore partly very worn, but along one edge the runes … sin : hiamuiþ : … can be read. The latter probably represents the name of the person to whom the stone was dedicated and who bore the rather rare name Hialmviðr. It is probably the same person who erected the nearby So 268 at Söderby in the same parish.


Norrbystenen i mörker

The newly found Norrbysten in dark light. Photo Magnus Källström

The biggest sensation of the year was the rediscovery of the rune stone U 874 in Hagby Church in Uppland, which had been missing since the early 19th century. The stone, which was found when a lightning rod was laid in the cemetery, was still in the same place, as a stepping stone in the nave of the demolished medieval church. The inscription reads: “Jarl and … (erected) the stone after Gerfast, his father.” It was erected on 24 May 2017 in the cemetery.

In May, Runverket visited Skåne and examined a number of previously unregistered inscriptions, including some runic carvings on a roof post in Färlövs church. In St. Nicolai Church in Simrishamn we also came across a previously unknown inscription. Read more here.

Other new finds this year include a runic bone from the Humlegården block in Sigtuna, a pair of graffiti inscriptions in Linköping Cathedral in Östergötland and a medieval wooden lid with runes from Uppsala. The latter comes from an archaeological investigation in the City Hall block in 1974-76, but has been unknown until now. The text reads “Peter owns”.

2015

In 2015, an unusually large number of previously unknown runic inscriptions appeared. In total, we received reports of some 15 new finds.

Already at the beginning of the year, two small rune carved fragments of sandstone were found at Spånga Church in Stockholm in connection with the rebuilding of the cemetery wall. The latest find was made in February and this fragment bears, among other things, a very characteristic r rune. The fragments have not belonged to the same rune stone, but we will investigate whether they can possibly be linked to earlier finds at the church.

At the end of February, a previously unknown plaster inscription was discovered in Hejnums Church on Gotland. It was previously covered by a layer of plaster and was discovered during the renovation of the sacristy. The inscription was very difficult to read, but turned out to consist of the first part of the prayer Ave Maria in Latin.

In April, we learned of a previously unknown rune mound on a plot of land in Haninge, Södermanland. Unfortunately, part of the mound has been blown away in the past, but the rest of the inscription is very clear and easy to read. It reads: … × sin × kuþan × auk × kuṇ…ʀ -, i.e. ” … sin gode … and Gunn-…” From the inflection gōðan (of the adjective gōðr) it appears that the mound was dedicated to a man. The runes kuṇ… should form the beginning of a personal name, but it is not possible to determine whether it is a man’s or a woman’s name.

Week 19 at the beginning of May was a particularly lucky week when no less than three new finds were reported: a plaster carving in Björke church on Gotland, a rune stone fragment from Björkö in Uppland and a rune bone from Drakegården in Sigtuna. Whether the runes on the fragment from Björkö are old or have been added more recently, we do not yet know, but we will examine it more closely once it has been cleaned.

At the end of May, another rune find was made on Gotland, this time in Halls Church, where a rune stone fragment was found during the rebuilding of a section of the churchyard wall. The fragment belonged to the upper part of a carved rune stone and the preserved inscription reads: …ṛ × sein × han × -…, which is probably the remains of the words “… sin (fade)r(?). He …”

One of the last finds of the year was another rune stone fragment from Uppland, this time from Eds allé in Upplands-Väsby. Here only four runes remained, but it is at least possible that three of them may have belonged to the name Viking or some other name on -ing.

2014

During a visit to Älvdalen in March, we had the opportunity to examine a calendar rod from Brunnsberg. The staff is in private ownership and bears some previously unrecorded inscriptions with valley runes. One reads : ante͡rsolsunafe͡rist i.e. “Anders Olsson has carved”, while another should probably be read : iagh : uil …-ọ-oa : migh : hustru 98 “I want to betroth me wife 98”.

The inscriptions show both dialectal features of the Dalmatian language (omission of the h in the word afer ‘har’) and influence from the written vernacular (the spellings iagh and migh). Wife is also a vernacular word.

Anders Olssons signatur

Anders Olsson’s signature on the calendar rod from Brunnsberg.Photo: Magnus Källström (CC BY)

In June, a small sandstone fragment with the runes …re… was found during an archaeological excavation survey at Spånga Church in Stockholm. At the time, we thought it might be related to one of the rune stones U 66 and U 68, but a closer examination has shown that it is probably a previously unknown rune stone. Later in the autumn, a small sandstone fragment with two carved parallel lines also appeared, which we believe may have belonged to the lower part of the rune-marked burial mound U 64.

During the autumn, a rune stone fragment was also found during an archaeological investigation in Hagby church in Småland. It is made of limestone and the inscription in this case still contains the runes: …ṛ × auk × … i.e. “… and …”. No rune stone has ever been found in this parish. Read more about the find here.

In October, Sigtuna Museum noticed two previously unknown rune tiles in its collections. This is an old find, which was probably made in the 1920s, but unfortunately there is no further information about the circumstances of the find.

2013

Two objects with runes were discovered in 2013. One is a fragment of a copper amulet with runes or possibly maple runes from Sunnerby on Kållandsö in Västergötland. The same type of runes is previously known from an amulet from Roskilde in Denmark, and the newly found amulet is an important addition to the research. The report is available here.

The second find is a medieval wooden ware pot from the investigations in the Åkroken block in Nyköping, Södermanland, where a runic inscription has been discovered during conservation. The inscription consists of about 6 characters and one could guess at a name, but unfortunately no rune has been completely preserved. One of the characters is also of such a peculiar design that it is not entirely certain that the inscription had a linguistic meaning.

On Monday 22 May, the lower part of the rune stone U 170 from Bogesund in Östra Ryd north of Stockholm was rediscovered. The rediscovered part of the rune stone stands on a burial ground and on the same spot where the stone was erected almost a thousand years ago.

U 170 Bogesund, Östra Ryds sn (mindre)

The rediscovered part of the rune stone U 170 at Bogesund in Vaxholm municipality.Photo: Magnus Källström (CC BY)

With the help of an older drawing it is possible to give the following (here slightly revised) translation of the whole inscription: “Gunne and Åsa had this stone erected and (made) vaults after Agne(?) (or: Hagne?), their son. He [was] dead on Ekerö. He is buried in the cemetery. Fastulv carved the runes. Gunne(?) (or: Hustrun?) erected this stone mound.”

On the rediscovered piece, both the place name Ekerö (written akru) and the word stenhäll ([s]tainhal) remain.

In August, we received a report through the Stockholm County Museum that a larger piece of the long-lost U 568 from Lohärad Priory had been recovered. The stone had previously only been known through a record from the 18th century. According to this, the inscription included the somewhat puzzling runic sequence … sikuarta sun …, which has been interpreted as “son of Sigvard” although t is almost never used for þ in runic inscriptions. The rediscovery showed that the name was misread. Instead, it says sikualta on the stone, i.e. the name Sigvaldi.

The preliminary examination carried out together with the County Museum revealed that the recovered fragment appears to be a direct match to one of the fragments marked U 569. This inscription number will therefore be deleted.

The inscription on U 568 should now be reproduced as follows: …þin… iftiR : sikualta : sun (:) … [aftir bonta sin] …-iR – “… this … after Sigvalde, [his] son, … after his husband …”

Runtecken i Lokrume kyrka (mindre)

The newly discovered rune signs in Lokrume church on Gotland.Photo: Magnus Källström (CC BY)

During the ongoing renovation of Lokrume Church on Gotland, some rune signs carved into the plaster inside the sacristy were noticed in May. These were probably made on an earlier occasion, but have not been registered. The carving consists of the runic sequence am and a single m-runic, possibly followed by a now completely chalked over a-runic. Presumably the runes am represent the beginning of the word amen.

St Olofs kyrka Raþmik

One of the recently read inscriptions in St. Olof’s Church in Falköping. The runes read raþmik, which can mean “Obey me”, but also “Advise me” or “Help me”.Foto: Magnus Källström (CC BY)

June also saw the first examination of a number of plaster inscriptions in St Olof’s Church in Falköping in Västergötland, which were reported in 2009, but which actually came to light as early as 1959(!). At least seven legible runic sequences can be identified, including the name Johannes and the word ‘god’ in Latin (deus). At the same time, a study was also made of the plaster carvings in Kinneved church, where the reading of one of the inscriptions could be improved.

During one and the same week in mid-November we received reports that previously unknown medieval runic carvings had been observed in a ceiling beam in the attic of Marum’s church in Västergötland and in the plaster of Anga church on Gotland (previously Östergarns church was incorrectly reported here). Both were examined and documented in 2014.

2012

In 2012, many finds were made, including previously unknown rune stone fragments at Odensala Church and on Björkö in Mälaren in Uppland. The latter fragment has this year been shown to match previously known rune stone fragments from the island. Another fun find was that the missing edge piece of the newly found rune stone from Småhamra in Österhaninge also came to light. This stone is now complete.

A couple of rune carved copper plates have been found in connection with the archaeological investigations in Gamla Uppsala. They probably belong to the transitional period between the Viking Age and the Middle Ages. In Hejnum church on Gotland, a large number of stone carvings with runes have been discovered, and previously unrecorded pustrine carvings in Sanda and Ala churches were examined for the first time this summer.

Another new find in 2012 was a gold ring with medieval runes, which had been in private hands, but is now in Gotland Museum. It is said to have been found in Visby around 1900, but we do not know if this is true.