Rune stone found in Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark

Rune stone found in Ribe
The archaeologists Morten Søvsø and Troels Bo Jensen are showing the rune stone to Danish TV, journalists and photographers

It was a dream that come true when archaeologist and head of the excavation team, Morten Søvsø, found a rune stone in the medieval archaeological excavation just next to Ribe Cathedral.
Though Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town with lots of Viking Era finds this is the first rune stone found in Ribe – and even the first rune stone from all of South West Denmark. The closest earlier found rune stone is the Malt-stone that can be seen at Sønderskov Slot.

Ribe's rune stone is studied by  Claus Feveile, Morten Søvsø, and Sarah Qvistgaard (archaeologists)
Ribe's rune stone is studied by Claus Feveile, Morten Søvsø, and Sarah Qvistgaard. 3 of the archaeologists who know most about Ribe’s Viking and Medieval Archaeology and history

A unique rune stone
The runic inscription on the Ribe rune stone is exceptionally beautiful and professionally done. A band formed around the stone shows a snake or a dragon, and even though it is only an 80cm x 50cm fragment of the original rune stone it is a unique find. The stone is probably from around the year 1000 – from the end of the Viking age around the time when Harald Bluetooth – who erected the large and famous rune stone in Jelling – was king of Denmark.
But not many runes are preserved on the Ribe stone. Syllables and a few words like: “fultrua”. The “t” in the word “fultrua” is part of the ornamentation in a way that is seldom seen, and when seen, it is on Swedish rune stones, like the ones the Swedish rune carver Åsmunde Kåreson made in the 11th century. The word is known from The Saga of the Jomsvikings and probably means: “a true friend” or “a trusted”.
Another word “sil(u)” can be interpreted as the word “soul” but other interpretations are also possible.
The Ribe rune stone doesn’t have any parallels in Denmark, but rune snakes or dragons with runic inscriptions starting near the animal’s head are known from the Danish island of Bornholm and from Sweden. Stones from there are the closest parallels to the rune stone found in Ribe.

Skeleton in the excavation
Maria Knudsen has found a Christian skeleton in the excavation - letting the skeleton face towards the east is a way of letting the body see the rising sun and face the right direction during the resurrection

The archaeological excavation in Ribe 2011
The archaeological excavation at the 500 m² site has just started and will go on all of 2011. We hope they will find the rest of the stone. It is possible for tourists and local people to stand on the sidelines and follow the excavation.

Ribes rune stone has now been placed at the museum “Ribes Vikinger – museum for vikingetid og middelalder” (Ribe’s Viking Museum)
Ribes rune stone has now been placed at the museum “Ribes Vikinger – museum for vikingetid og middelalder” (Ribe’s Viking Museum)

To see the rune stone you just visit the museum “Ribes Vikinger – museum for vikingetid og middelalder” (Ribe Viking and Medieval Museum).
Danhostel Ribe is located just 5 minutes’ walk from Ribe Cathedral, the excavation and Ribe Viking Museum. The photos on this page are taken by Danhostel Ribe’s photographer. We had hoped to be able to tell you the message on the stone, but more interpretations are needed – and probably also more of the stone…

Links:
1. The excavations own blog: Lindegården  (Danish)
2. The runologist Lisbeth Imer from the Danish National Museum in Ribe to study the rune stone, TVSyd (Danish Television)
3. The Danish National Museum and runologist Lisbeth Imer blogging about Ribe’s rune stone  (Danish)
4. From the first excavation the same place during 2008 and 2009: Denmark’s probably first Christian burials are found  (English)
5. YouTube Video from the excavation. Sydvestjyske Museer

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