1600-year old Runestone

A sensational find has been made in Øverby in Norway – a runestone from the 400s AD that predates the Viking Age by 400 years. Most known runestones, with a few exceptions, originate from the 900s and the 1000s AD.

“The recently found Øverby runestone is the greatest runological sensation in Norway since the Hogganvik stone was found in Mandal in 2009. The Øverby stone is from the 400s AD and contains a text of at least 35 runes distributed on two surfaces on a large boulder. The runic inscription is in Proto Norse - a language no longer spoken and that few can read or understand. One of the rock surfaces was scanned last autumn and it was confirmed by researchers at the University of Oslo during the following winter that it was a real inscription." says runologist Karoline Kjesrud.

What the runes say will now be investigated and interpreted.

- The first part of the inscription says Lu irilaR raskaR runoR, translating to “Carve runes skilled runemaster”. It is the first time in history that the word raskar (skilled) appears – a word now lost in the Norwegian language. The runestone thus becomes a valuable source of the history of the language. Currently, we do not know what is on the bottom side of the stone, besides that there are indeed runes.” says Kjesrud, researcher and philologist at the Department of Linguistics and Nordic Studies, UiO.

On Tuesday, researchers from the Cultural History Museum, the University of Oslo and archaeologists from Østfold County Municipality were in place to turn the stone, scan and document the inscriptions on the underside. The stone was a little damaged by time and its previous use as stairs, but archaeologists and language scientists clearly found more than they had hoped for.

- This is great, says Frode Iversen, Professor of Archeology, Cultural History Museum (KHM), University of Oslo and Archaeologist Sigrid Mannsåker Gundersen, County Conservator of Østfold County Municipality.

Scientists aren’t often found using words like “sensational”, but this was a clear exception. The inscription is extensive and it can provide new information about the ancient language. Language researchers have already found the root of the word rask that was missing. Proto Norse later developed into Old Norse, spoken in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. The two languages are quite different.  

 Background / Facts

  • It is a horizontal rectangular rock with runes. It has probably been in a graveyard on the farm Øverby. It measures approx. 112.5 x 252.5 cm. The thickness varies from 27 to 33 cm.
  • The inscription consists of approx. 18 runes on the edge of the stone and a preliminary unknown number on the underside. The runes are 15-16 cm tall.
  • Time has partially flattened and smoothened the surface of the stone, damaging parts of the runic inscription.
  • The stone was transported down from Sparreåsen in 1905 and used as a staircase in the new farmhouse at Øverby. The inscription was facing the wall and remained undetected.
  • The runestone's original location is uncertain. It has probably stood at the foot of Sparreåsen. There is a well-known grave field known in this area.
  • Around 1990, a new farmhouse was built at Øverby. The stone was then moved into the garden and used as a bench.
  • The strange markings on the edge of the stone bench were then discovered by the landowner Olav Schie who wondered if they could be runes.
  • Up to now, the most famous Norwegian rune stones from this period are Tunesteinen in Østfold, Hogganvikstein in West Agder and Einangsteinen in Valdres.
  • The Elder Futhark consists of 24 characters. Inscriptions in the Elder Futhark are written in Proto Norse language.
  • Proto Norse language is very different from today’s Scandinavian languages. There is no complete overview of the Proto Norse language, nor any dictionary, but the language is reconstructed using runic inscriptions as seen on the Øverby stone.

What happens now

  • Documentation of the inscription. Scanning of the inscription and photogrammetry of the entire stone. The scan will give 1-2 mm depth slots of the inscription. This documentation ensures a good assessment basis for each run.
  • Identification of the original site. The stone has been brought down from a nearby hill. The original site is attempted to be identified.
  • Reading and interpreting the inscription. In the spring of 2019, a scientific article about the discovery will be published by Iversen, Kjesrud and Gundersen.
  • Further management: Should the rock remain where it was found? Should it be moved to its original location, or be set up elsewhere in the Rakkestad municipality? Or should it be moved to the Cultural History Museum considering the runes? Since the stone has been moved, it is now regarded as a loose cultural heritage following the Cultural Heritage Act. The Cultural History Museum is the managing authority and is in dialogue with the landowners, Østfold County Municipality and Rakkestad Municipality to find a good solution.

The original article in Norwegian is found here:



  • Chuck Paulinski

    I think the rock should be left where it was found. To me it would mean a lot more.

  • Laura

    I love this 💓 I have learned so much

  • Kayn Wells

    Brilliant find! And more knowledge to understand. The wisdom of the runes never ends.

  • Shane

    Sounds like a new book on the Elder Futhark coming to the store soon!

  • Ray

    Wow! Really cool find. There is so much we do not know about the people of our past. I am fascinated by the evolution of languages.

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