In the Fall of 2021, archaeologists with the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History were excavating an ancient cremation pit and uncovered a 12.2 x 12.6-inch flat stone with markings. Experts claim that the runestone may be the oldest runestone discovered. It has been named the “Svingerud Stone” or “Svingerudsteinen.”

The runic alphabet is one of the oldest known forms of writing, stemming from the Phoenician alphabet. It was used extensively during the Viking Age (793-1066 CE*); however, many runestones predate this period. For instance, the Einang Runestone dates to 300 CE.

Runestones were upright stones with runic inscriptions found primarily in Scandinavia, with the most in Sweden. The Svingerud Stone differs from most runestones in that it was found lying in a burial ground. Bones and wood were also found. Radiocarbon dating of the bones and wood dates the stone to 1 to 250 CE. An inscription reads “idiberug,” which may be the name of a person or family. Its meaning is unknown.

The discovery has been called “sensational” and “unique.” Usage of runestones ended when the runic alphabet was ultimately replaced with the Latin alphabet. The stone is on display at the Museum of Cultural History, January 21-February 26, 2023.

* I am using the CE (Common Era) notation that is more accurate than the BC/AD format.