The story began nearly 1000 years ago, around 1040 AD, when runcarver Erik was given the task of carving the stone. Erik was, and is still, a renowned runecarver who carved many fine stones in his lifetime. This particular one was commissioned by a man named Ari in honor of his father Hialm. One of the men, or both, were clearly Christian. This is quite evident from the runes and art. Being Christian, or combining the new faith with the old wasn't uncommon in the later days of the Viking Age. The tradition of raising runestones, however, didn't vanish with the old faith. The runes read:
ari + raised + stone + after + hialm + father + his. god + help + his + soul
The art on the runestone is typical for Erik's earlier work, with a large, prominent cross, a snake seen from above and the runes A and N in the shape of short twig runes. Two extra crosses deviate from the art and are most likely carved later by someone else ensuring that there was nothing pagan left in the stone.
LOST AND FOUND
The stone stood for centuries in Morgongåva, Sweden, until Sir Alexander Seton, a Scotsman living in Sweden at the time, decided to donate the runestone to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1787. It was shipped to Edinburgh that same year. Few knew of the donation and the stone was considered lost forever.
It must have been mere luck when a Swedish politican by the name of Johan Nordenfalk happened to discover it in the mid 19th century. The runestone stood on the hill at Edinburg Castle.
THE RETURNAL ATTEMPT
The fate of the stone eventually became known to Linda Silja and Mats Köbin, culture and heritage enthusiasts from the region of the runestone's origin. They began a process in 2012 aiming to get it returned to Sweden, but soon realized that it was a difficult, if not an impossible task. A conclusion was finally reached - if the original couldn't be returned, then a reconstruction was needed. They got in touch with Kalle Runecarver, one of the only people in the world carving runestones through traditional methods, and they all came to an agreement by the end of 2013. As the work began, Mats started a runestone fundraiser on Facebook.
Since he had to make a reconstruction, Kalle traveled to Edinburgh in 2013 to "get to know" the runestone. He found it in the Princes Street Gardens under Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
Kalle proceeded with carving a detailed reconstruction of the stone during 2014 that was finished by the fall. It was raised by the railway station of Morgongåva in August of 2014.
The Scotsman wrote on November 15: "It is one of the most historic relics to be found in the heart of Scotland’s capital – but lies fenced off from the public in the shadow of the iconic visitor attraction it pre-dates. Now the city’s little-known “Swedish Runestone”, which has been Edinburgh since the 18th century, is set to be moved from its home in one of the most inaccessible corners of Princes Street Gardens after more than 200 years."
The stone was moved in December of 2018 from its location in Princes Street Gardens under Edinburgh Castle Esplanade to George Square Garden, opposite the University of Edinburgh's Scandinavian Studies Department.
Since this is one of just three of its kind in the UK, and we have thousands of runestones in Sweden, we at Grimfrost are OK with leaving it in Scotland now that it gains a new, more prominent spot. Both Ari who commissioned the stone and Erik who carved it in 1040 AD would have been very pleased with the new location. Whether you are visiting Morgongåva in Sweden, or the University of Scandinavian Studies in Edinburgh, we strongly suggest you pay one of the stones a visit.
See Kalle Runecarvers's page about his work with the reconstruction here: Runristare
See a gallery dedicated to the move of the runestone in Edinburgh here: Flickr Gallery
Read the article in The Scotsman here: The Scotsman