Decoding Medieval Runes

A medieval person carved runes on the surface of this bone, which was likely taken from the rib of a cow or horse. Jani Causevic / Courtesy of NIKU

Archaeologists Discover—and Start to Decode—Rare Medieval Runes

by Nora McGreevy/

Late last year, archaeologists in Norway made a pair of stunning discoveries only days apart, unearthing two rare sets of runes in separate sections of Oslo’s Medieval Park.

Solveig Thorkildsen and Ingeborg Hornkjøl of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) found the objects—a bone featuring a Norse inscription and a rune stick with both Latin and Norse text—during ongoing excavations at the site. According to a statement, the rune bone is the first of its kind found in Norway’s capital in more than 30 years.

The team was wrapping up work for the day when Thorkildsen spotted a large bone lying on the ground. “Look, there’s a rune letter!” she joked to her colleagues, per Google Translate.

When the researcher picked the bone up and turned it over, she was shocked to find that someone had, in fact, scratched 14 runes onto the object’s surface.

“My heart was pounding,” recalls Thorkildsen in the statement, per a translation by Anders Moen Kaste of Science Norway. Read More:



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