Weapons and jewellery
Several hundred objects with older runes have been found, about 70 in Norway. They date from A.D. 150–700. From the earliest centuries, runes are mainly found on costly weapons and jewellery.
The term erilaR appears in about ten inscriptions with older runes and is related to the word ‘earl’. It is usually translated ‘rune-master’. Another word occurring repeatedly is alu. This word is found on amulets and must be a wish for good luck. It is probably the word for ‘ale’.
Gold bracteates were small and thin amulets of gold stamped on one side. They were struck in the 400s and 500s, mainly in Denmark and southern Sweden. Originally they were imitations of Roman gold medallions. Over one hundred different runic inscriptions, often simple magic words, are known from gold bracteates.
The earliest known runic inscription from Norway is on an iron spear-head found in a man’s grave from A.D. 175–200. The word raunijaR on the spear-blade means ‘tester’, probably the name of the weapon. The spear was to ‘test’ or ‘try’ the opponent
3. ‘Alu/Good luck.’ Gold bracteate from Bjørnerud farm, Vestfold. 500–550.
All photos: Eirik Irgens Johnsen © Museum of Cultural History