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Fascinating discovery in Norway, oldest runic inscription in historical past discovered

A flat, square block of brownish sandstone (bound sedimentary rock) has an illegible inscription carved into it, possibly the earliest example of words recorded in written form in Scandinavia, the Oslo Museum of Cultural History said in a statement.

Archaeologists believe that the inscriptions in question are up to 2,000 years old and date back to the earliest days of the enigmatic history of runic writing.

The museum says the inscription is among the oldest ever found containing runic writing, and that the discovery in Norway is “the oldest dateable runic stone in the world.”

“This discovery will give us a lot of information about the use of the runic script in the early Iron Age.” This is perhaps one of the first attempts to use that script in Norway and Scandinavia on stone,” said Christel Zillmer, a professor at the University of Oslo, within which the aforementioned Museum of Cultural History was founded.

Older runic writings have been found on other objects, but not on stone. The earliest find with runic writing is on a bone comb found in Denmark.

Zillmer says that the tip of a knife or needle may have been used to carve the stone.

The rune stone was discovered in late 2021 during the excavation of a grave near Tirifjord, west of Oslo, in a region known for several monumental archaeological finds.

The objects in the cremation pit – burnt bones and charcoal – indicate that the runes were probably inscribed between AD 1 and AD 250.

“It took us time to analyze and date the rune stone,” said Zillmer, explaining why the public was only informed about the discovery now.

Measuring 32 by 31 centimeters, the stone has several types of inscriptions, not all of which make linguistic sense.

Eight runes on the face of the stone spell out “idiberug,” which could be a woman’s, man’s, or family’s name.

Zillmer called this discovery “the most sensational thing she has encountered as a scientist.”

The rock, called the Svingerudski Kamen after the place where it was found, is awaiting a lot of analysis.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, we will gain valuable knowledge about the early history of runic writing,” emphasized Professor Zillmer.

The rune stone will be on display for a month, starting on January 21, at the Museum of Cultural History, which has the largest collection of historical artefacts in Norway, from stone to modern times.

Runes are characters in several Germanic scripts that were used in Northern Europe from ancient times until the adoption of the Latin alphabet. These graphemes were carved on stones and various household objects.

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