Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rune Stone Deciphered

The mysterious rune stone found under a church floor in western Norway has been identified.

The stone, found under the floor at Hausken church in Rennesøy, Rogaland, was used as part of the foundation when the church was built in 1856.

Archeologists at first believed they had found a new rune stone that was nearly 1,000 years old, but they now have identified it as part of a large tombstone that was previously reported in 1639 and 1745.

The stone lay outside the door of the old stave church, and the remains of this stone have now been found under the floor, beneath the pulpit.

"We thought at first that we had found a completely unknown stone, and we misread one of the runes," archeologist Helge Sørheim told Aftenposten.no.

James Knirk at the Rune Archive at the University of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History correctly identified the 'new' find. One of the unclear runes can be read as an 'f' and not as a 'k' as first thought.

By examining the text on the stone identified in the 17th and 18th centuries, one inscription can be formed, reading: "Åsolv on Helland's requiem is 4 nights after Hallvard's mass".

This means that Åsolv, who lived on the farm Helland, near the church, died on the 19th of May. The feast of St. Hallvard was celebrated on May 15 in medieval times, and Åsolv died four days later. Knirk believes that Åsolv died in the 13th or 14th century.

"We don't know who Åsolv was because the village records do not go so far back, but he must have been quite a prosperous farmer since he got a tombstone. It was not very common to have relatives who could write runes then either," Sørheim said.

The archeologists now hope to find the first part of the tombstone, which disappeared after being recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries.

"Now we are making a cast of the stone we have found and trying to find the first part, which perhaps was also used in building the foundation of the new church," Sørheim said.