Stick with Norse and Latin runes found in Oslo

The excavation of the Medieval Park in Oslo where the falconer figurine was discovered last month has unearthed two more rare artifacts: a large bone inscribed with Norse runes, and a stick with runic text in Norse on one side and Latin on the other.

The bone is from a large domesticated mammal (probably a cow or a horse) and is believed to be rib. It is carved on one side with 13 clearly visible runes. The other side is also carved with runes, but they are worn and difficult to read. It has not been radiocarbon dated yet. Comparable rune bones date to between 1100 and 1350.

The rune stick is flat and has writing on both long sides and one edge. It is broken at both ends so is likely missing some of the text. The grain and damage to the wood makes the runes that have survived challenging to interpret.

The legible text of both pieces has been interpreted by Runologist Kristel Zilmer from the Cultural History Museum, University of Oslo. The bone’s runes read “basmarþærbæin,” which could be a name or nickname. It could also be a self-reference, as “bæin” means bone in Old Scandinavian, so the word may be describing the object, much like the runes found on a comb in Denmark which spelled out “comb.”

The rune stick features both a prayer and a personal name.

On one of the broad sides, there are two latin words: manus and Domine or Domini.

Manus means hand, and Dominus means lord, or God. The words are found in a known latin prayer: “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum”, meaning “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”. These are words traditionally attributed to Jesus as he was crucified.

The short side of the stick may be a continuation of the prayer, Zilmer explains. The first rune is difficult to pin down without a microscope. So far it can be read in different ways. […]

It is possible that it says “it is true”. If so, then the prayer is similar to one found in the Urnes stave church: “Hold thy sacred Lord hand over Brynjolvs spirit. This be true”.

The female name Bryngjerd is also inscribed.

After her name is a damaged section that appears to include the verb “fela” which means both to hide and to surrender. The latter interpretation could suggest that Bryngjerd surrendered her life in the service of God.

The combination of Latin and Norse on the stick is a fine example of the complexity of runic script even among the general population. Latin literacy was not solely the province of the clergy in medieval Norway.

The stick was found in a waste layer while the bone was on the southern end of the site, one of the oldest sections. Dates are difficult to derive from the archaeological context, but comparable finds, the carving style and the use of certain characters point to a date of between 1100 and 1350.

2 thoughts on “Stick with Norse and Latin runes found in Oslo

  1. A bit disappointing that –not here, but in the sourced article– firstly a complete rendering of what might be written on that wood is missing, and secondly, the interpretation of the little that is presented is only partially.

    Allegedly, the “book stave” (or “rune pinne”) is inscribed on THREE (of its four?) sides.

    Here, cf.: – Scroll down to “NORSKE RUNER FRA CA ÅR 1300-1400”, and check:

    What I so far deciphered seems utter rubbish, so at least a hint of what I misinterpreted would be helpful:

    ..ᛒᚱᛦᚱ ᚠᛅᚱᚦᚱ ᛁᚱᚦᛅᚦᚠᚮ..
    ..bryr fardr ir dadfo..

    «Bryngjerd, er det/som det…» ?!? :confused:

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