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Viking runes (750–1100)

Runestones are often associated with the Vikings. They were usually erected as memorials to deceased family members. While there are hundreds of runestones from Viking Age Denmark, and thousands from Sweden, only 50–60 have been found in Norway. The fashion does not seem to have caught on here.

From a runological point of view, the Viking Age begins with the transition to the younger runes in the early 700s and lasts until just after 1100 when runestones apparently ceased to be raised.

Runes are also found on small objects from the Viking Age, including a few items from the Viking ship burials at Oseberg and Gokstad.

We know of some 400 Norwegian coins with runes minted in the period 1065–1080. The runes are almost always stamped on the reverse and usually give the name of the moneyer who struck the coin. Five texts recur. The one occurring most frequently is ‘Gunnarr owns this stamp’.

Bildet kan inneholde: stein, murstein, rektangel.
Photo: Eirik Irgens Johnsen © Museum of Cultural History

Bildet kan inneholde: font, tekst, linje, kalligrafi.

1.‘...-in’s son Skúli’s son.’ / ‘... (carved) these (run)es when he travelled to ...’ Runestone fragment from Klekken farm in Ringerike. C. 1050–1125.

Bildet kan inneholde: gjenstand.
Photo: Ann Christine Eek © Museum of Cultural History

Bildet kan inneholde: svart, gul, linje, blad, linjekunst.

2. ‘Kiss me!’ Cow bone from Oslo. 1075–1100.

Photo: Eirik Irgens Johnsen © Museum of Cultural History

Bildet kan inneholde: sirkel, gul, linjekunst, linje.

3. ‘Gunnhildr made the spindle whorl.’ Spindle whorl from Hoftuft farm, Aust-Agder.1000s?

Bildet kan inneholde: linjekunst, tekst, linje, font, farge bok.

Bildet kan inneholde: linjekunst, linje, font.

4. (a) ‘Þórfriðr’/‘Þórfríðr’ and ‘Þóra’; (b) ‘Slóði’. Silver pendants from Slemmedal farm, Aust-Agder. C. 900.

5. Coins from King Óláfr the Quiet’s time. Gressli find, Sør-Trøndelag. 1065–1080:

Bildet kan inneholde: mynt, metall, valuta, penger, gjenstand.

(a) ‘Lofric [an Englishman] owns this stamp.’

Bildet kan inneholde: sirkel.

(b) ‘Áskell owns this ‘penny’ [=stamp]

Bildet kan inneholde: metall, sirkel, mynt.

Bildet kan inneholde: crest, emblem, logo.

(c) ‘King Óláfr [the Quiet].’

Bildet kan inneholde: mynt, metall, valuta, penger, bronse.

Bildet kan inneholde: sirkel, logo.

(d)‘Áslákr.’

Bildet kan inneholde: mynt, metall, valuta, penger, kryss.

(e)‘Gunnarr owns this stamp.’

Photos of coins: Mårten Teigen © Museum of Cultural History

Published Dec. 16, 2020 12:56 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2021 9:14 AM