What would you have done?

On this stone, Randi Schie has drunk many cups of coffee. Now scientists call the stone «a sensation.»
Photo: Christian Nicolai Bjørke / NRK

Imagine this situation: you`re drinking coffee in your garden. Or just try to imagine if you don’t have a garden. While you sit there on the stone slab where you usually use to sit, you notice some strange markings on the stone. «Hm, are they natural or man-made?» you might wonder, and then you call the authorities. They send some archaeologists, and then everything goes far beyond your wildest imagination.

Well, that is the case on Øverby farm in Rakkestad municipality in Østfold county, Norway, situated around 80 kilometres southeast of Oslo. For 28 years, the farmers have used the same stone as a bench where they drink coffee, without knowing they were sitting on a sensation.

When the archaeologist came to the farm in 2018, there was no doubt. The huge stone slab, 2,5×1 meter, had runic letters. A runestone from the Viking age? No, they could early on, determine that the carvings were even older. Pre Viking! 400 AD., they believe.

Since the language was that old, it precedes the Norse language and is, therefore, an almost forgotten language, open for interpretation.
The inscription goes like this:
iu irilaR raskaR runoR in(n) isni

The suggested translation so far: Carved fast (fast=clever) Iril runes for Isnil.
“Iril” is believed to be a title, maybe an earl. “Isnil” is likely a female name.

Rune expert Karoline Kjesrud investigates the Øverby stone.
Photo: Christian Nicolai Bjørke

Especially the title has triggered the archaeologist’s imagination. In an article published 15. November 2019 — Forskersonen.no, based on the work of scientists from the University of Oslo. OBS! It was originally in Norwegian, but I have translated it with google translator. Hence, if you find any errors, shoot google, not me. Thanks.

Here comes a part of the article:

“It is rare for new rune inscriptions to appear in Norway in the writing system we call older futhark. The Øverby runestone is the largest runological sensation since the Hogganvik runestone was found in Mandal in 2009.

The «new» stone dates from the 4th century AD. and contains an inscription of at least 35 runic letters and many more so-called staves scattered over the two tons heavy slab of rock. The inscriptions are in Norse – and a language no one speaks anymore and that can read and understand.

For over a year, the researchers at the University of Oslo have tried to reveal its secrets. Now they share this research in an article along with 10 other «inscriptions with earls» in Scandinavia.

Experts on language history, philology, archaeology and digital documentation have gathered on the task. Parts of the inscription are severely damaged and therefore have been time-consuming. We have succeeded in identifying just over 30 runes and put them together into meaningful words and phrases. New methods and high-resolution scanning have been crucial to the results.

Gives answers to an enigmatic time of war and conflict

The Roman and Migration Period from year 1 to 575 was a troubled period in Scandinavia. There have been found almost 1800 fortifications from this era in Sweden and Norway which testify to war and conflict. The large sacrifices found in marshes in Denmark have uncovered entire armies with over 1000 soldiers. The victors sacrificed military equipment, humans and horses, perhaps to the god Tyr. Many of the warriors came from Norway and Sweden. New excavations of Sandbyborg on the Swedish island of Öland show how serious such warfare could be, with hundreds of killed, both children and men and where women were perhaps kidnapped.

So far, we have known little about the military leaders in these communities. That’s where the runestone at Rakkestad coming in. The word «iril» that appears in the inscription should have a crucial role. It has also been found on 10 other runic inscriptions in Scandinavia from 200 to 550 AD.

We have analysed all these inscriptions. Where are they found? What social relationships and military positions can they tell about? And not least, in which context do they show up?

In the past, the irile was often interpreted as a «runemaster,» or a religious leader. Now we believe that this is probably an early form of earl and military specialist …”

Neighbour Emil Omenås snapped pictures of the Øverby stone in the low spring sun. This led the archaeologists to take an interest in it. In the background, you see the hill where the stone probably stood before it was used as a stair to a house on the farm in 1907 and later moved to the garden.
Photo: Christian Nicolai Bjørke / NRK
This inscription reads «I, erile, Wiwila». Here you can see the well-known climber Arne Randers Heen and the inscription at Veblungsnes in 1935 before erupting into the fjord. The runes were probably not painted white in reality, this is probably an early example of photo manipulation. (Photo: Norwegian Tindemuseum)
Photo: Frode Iversen
Øverby farm

As you see, we have a lot of interesting finds here in Scandinavia. Runestones, Viking ships, old fortifications. Etc. Soon, there will be more articles to read on my blog. Please subscribe if you will stay informed.
Thank you for your attention

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