Tag Archives: Claus Feveile

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…

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

When pagan Vikings in Denmark sold slaves at Viking markets in Ribe – and the buyers were Christians

Ribe Viking Market. Reconstruction of Ribe about 700 AD
Ribe Viking Market. Reconstruction of Ribe about 700 AD







Denmark’s first “pedestrian street” was founded already around 700 AD in Denmark’s oldest town, Ribe. Walking on this “pedestrian street” through Ribe Viking Market, you could meet people from North Scandinavia and South Europe; even Arab salesmen came to the Viking Market bringing exotic luxury goods as spices and pearls.
At the marketplace newcomers’ first impressions were mixes of people shouting for better sales of their goods, foreign languages, smells of food, garbage, and cow flops, and craftsmen producing all kinds of crafts from combs of bone to jewellery
from bronze, etc.
Ribe gave probably the most international impressions you could get in Denmark during the early Viking Age.
But why did this Viking market by Ribe River around 700 develop to be an enterprising metropolis with international commercial relations? And why did it quickly grow to be so big that Ribe was (maybe) the most important – town in Denmark? And why did it decline dramatically all ready again 150 years later around 850?

Slave trade could be a reasonable answer for some of Ribe’s rise around the Viking Age.
At the market it was possible to buy goods as drinking glasses, jewellery, spices, pottery, amber, leather, wool, food, wine, combs, grind stones, etc. – and PROBABLY ALSO SLAVES.
In the 150 years from 700 to 850 AD the Danes were still pagans. They believed in the old Nordic Gods such as Odin and Thor. But south of Denmark Europe was Christianized. In the early 700’s AD the Frankish Empire forced Christianity to the people around the Rhine. Christianity didn’t allow Christian people to keep Christian slaves. The Christian Church accepted slaves, but at the same time it was a good deed to free slaves. So what did they do? They probably went to their northern neighbour to get some pagan slaves.

Viking raid at Ribe Viking Centre

But why did Ribe decline again?
As Ribe was a major trading town it was an obvious choice for Christian missionary work. At the marketplace Christians mixed and traded with the pagan Vikings. About 855 the catholic monk Ansgar obtained some land from the Danish King Horik to build the first Christian Church in Denmark in Ribe. From now on Denmark starts to get Christianized and 100 years later, around 965 AD the first Danish king Harald Bluetooth (Harold Bluetooth) was baptized. He erected a runic stone in Jelling for his parents, King Gorm and Queen Thyra, proclaiming that he now had Christianized Denmark. This stone is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Jelling. Well it wasn’t that easy to Christianize the Danes, for many years Christians and pagans lived side by side, but of course it became more difficult to buy slaves.
Another important reason that influenced Ribe’s situation was probably that around mid 800’s the Frankish Empire declined. After Charlemagne’s death (Charles the Great in 814) no strong central power ruled in the Frankish Empire and many wars between France and Germany continued for centuries. The European trade fell, people were getting poorer and also the first Danish Viking raids started in the late 700’s AD and when the Frisian capital Dorestad was attacked in the 830th the raids really escalated. Around 850 Ribe got surrounded by a town moat to protect the citizens. The good times for Ribe were over and didn’t return until the mid-11th century when Ribe rose again as a very important Danish Christian metropolis

Jelling rune stone. Unesco world heritage
Jelling rune stone. Unesco world heritage

I have to emphasize that we don’t know if pagan Vikings in Denmark sold slaves to Christians at Ribe Viking market – it is only a most likely hypothesis. Maybe we will get wiser when archaeologists in this month start excavations to find Ansgar’s first church in Denmark around Ribe Cathedral again, where they all ready a couple of years ago found some of the first Christian burials in Denmark. Millions have been donated for these excavations and it is possible for everybody to follow the excavations all 2011. Ribe Cathedral is 5 minutes walk from Danhostel Ribe.

Claus Feveile: Vikingernes Ribe. Handel, magt tro