Mark Oldham, Senior Advisor for Archaeology at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), has outlined the rare runic discoveries he and his specialist colleagues unearthed in Medieval Park in central Oslo.
Excavations were carried out over the course of eight months in an area that is to become the park, next to and over a new express railway line
linking Oslo and Ski.
Describing the discovery and laying out his initial conclusions to The Viking Herald, Mr. Oldham, Assistant Editor of the respected journal Public Archaeology, also pointed to a lecture he recently gave at NIKU in Oslo, expanding on the subject in more granular detail.
You can see his ten-minute presentation in English in this video recording of the event, from 18 minutes in.
The Viking Herald: How many new runic finds have been made in Oslo in the last year?
Mark Oldham: Eleven new finds were made in the period from September 2021 to August 2022. Some of these have clearly identifiable runes, others have rune-like markings.
The findings are important as they have significantly increased the number of runic finds from Oslo, which now stands at around 90. This is still much less than what has been found in Bergen and Trondheim, but is nevertheless a large increase in the course of just one year.
TVH: In your expert opinion, what are the most exciting runic finds in Oslo in the last year, and why?
MO: These new finds tell us more about the literacy of medieval Oslo and about the activities that took place in the city.
A good example of this is the ownership markers we found, which are linked to trade and to specific traders – in our case, one called "Asbjørn."
The rune stick in Old Norse and Latin. Photo: NIKU
TVH: How would you assess the importance of the findings?
MO: This is a type of find that has been missing from the Oslo corpus, but now we have one or two new examples.
Another important and exciting find is the rune stick with religious texts in two languages – Old Norse and Latin – which shows that people would, at least to a certain extent, have been multilingual and able to memorize and write down phrases and prayers that they had heard in church.
The rune stick in Old Norse and Latin has text on three sides (A, B, and C) and has been interpreted as saying:
A: ‘Lord’s hand(s), be (over)…
B: ‘Bryngjerd who/which that… ‘(or: ‘Bryngjerd, is that…’)
C: 'That is true.'
See our recent article on the world's oldest runestone found at Svingerud, currently on display at the Historical Museum in Oslo. Also, look out for an in-depth interview with expert runologist Kristel Zilmer in the coming days!
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