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Good News: World's oldest dated rune stone found in Norway

BY Alice Gawthrop

20th Apr 2023 Good News

Good News: World's oldest dated rune stone found in Norway

A rune dating back 2,000 years has been discovered in an old burial ground

What’s the oldest artefact you’ve ever stumbled across? Perhaps an old coin in your garden, or a vintage film camera in your local charity shop. Archaeologists in Norway have discovered something a little older—the world’s oldest dated rune stone, with inscriptions from up to 2,000 years ago.

Digging up a burial ground


Most rune inscriptions are found in Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Norway being the most fruitful

In late 2021, researchers from the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History were investigating a burial ground in eastern Norway. In doing so, they came across the “Svingerud Stone”, named for the site at which it was found. The stone features runic inscriptions believed to have been carved into it between one and 250 AD. 

"The stone features runic inscriptions believed to have been carved into it between one and 250 AD"

Runologist Kristel Zilmer, Professor of Written Culture and Iconography at the museum, told CNN, “Me and my colleagues at the Museum of Cultural History are very excited about this sensational find that makes us rewrite some chapters in the history of runic writing. It provides the first clear evidence of the occurrence of rune-stones in Scandinavia in the first centuries AD, thanks to the possibilities we have had in this case to carry out radiocarbon dating of the grave in which the stone lay.” 

The oldest rune stone to date

Runic inscriptions are inscriptions made in one of the various runic alphabets. The majority are found in Scandinavian countries, with Norway being second only to Sweden in terms of the number of runic inscriptions found. The majority of rune stones are from the Viking Age (793–1066 AD), with a handful dating back to around 550 AD.  

"This new discovery in Norway is the only rune stone found by archaeologists that dates back to before 300 AD"

This new discovery in Norway is the only rune stone found by archaeologists that dates back to before 300 AD, making it an extremely significant discovery. It means that the tradition of rune stones may be older than we thought!

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