December 2nd – Runic inscription N10607 from Trondheim

A large number of runic inscriptions from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries has been discovered in Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim. These are referred to as the ‘city runes’. These inscriptions were not made by professional writers, but rather by ordinary people who had learned the art of writing and reading. During the beginning of the Medieval period, it seems that it became more and more common to master the art of writing runes.

Most of the inscriptions are everyday scribbles, short messages, sales agreements, prayers, practice writing, name tags to show ownership of objects or dirty inscription. The inscriptions are often made on wooden sticks, on wooden objects such as for example combs or children’s toys, or on pieces of bones or even metal.

Hundreds and hundreds of inscriptions has been discovered in Bergen, Trondheim and Oslo and there are a lot of interesting ones. I wish I could show you all of them, but since my calendar is going to be more local this year, I’ve chosen some inscriptions from Trondheim.

First runic inscription out is a simple, but still interesting and a bit complicated and discussed piece of inscription. It’s a runic inscription made on a cow bone dated to the Medieval period. It was found during the excavations of Søndre gate in central Trondheim in 1971.

Photographer is Åge Hojem, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0

The inscription looks like this:

i æ u y a s r t i n

There has been some disagreements considering what the inscription actually reads. Some think it’s just a bunch of runes that does not make any sense, others think it is a so-called ‘lønnrune’.

‘Lønnruner’ translates to something like ‘secret runes’ or ‘hidden runes’. The purpose of carving runes this way could have been to purposely hide the content of the inscription from other than the person it was meant for and therefore made harder to read and to understand. It could also be a way to hide taboo words. Or, it could simply be a way of writing runes without any thought of magic or secrecy of the runic text. Often when one look at what is written with such runes, it is difficult to imagine or understand that the text should be something to hide. Maybe it was just a way of showing of one’s skills when it came to writing.

During the transition between the Viking age and the Medieval period, being able to write runes was something that became more common. Earlier, rune masters was hired to carve runes into stones. Now that “everyone” knew how to carve runes, write and read, showing that you mastered harder technical ways to write was perhaps something someone would do.

Back to the interpretation of this inscription from Trondheim. One who has tried to decode this inscription, is Jan Ragnar Hagland. He has interpreted this inscription as some kind of ‘lønnrune’ inscription and he has proposed it should be read every second rune. When we do so, we get two male name: Ivar and Øystein.

i æ u y a s r t i n

i u a r / æ y s t i n
Ivar / Øystein

If this is the way it was meant to be read, it is truly a puzzling inscription. Who was Ivar and Øystein? Who were they to each other? Was the inscription made as a ‘lønnrune’ and to be secret or hard to read? We will never know!

What do you think?

Collections Online
Arild Hauge – runer

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