What Are RunestonesRunestones are large raised stones with the ancient Norse symbols called runes inscribed on them. Most of the over 2000 runestones that have been discovered were erected in the Middle Ages from 950 AD through 1100 AD by the ancient Norse people know as the Vikings. The Vikings created these stones for various reasons. See the list below for some of the main reasons.
Click here for a great selection of Amazon.com books about the Vikings.
Why Vikings Created Runestones
- Memorials to the dead
- To mark territory
- Describe inheritance
- To describe important events
- To describe great voyages. For example, Gardarike Runestones describe voyages to the East, to locations such as modern day Russia.
- For self-promotion
Where Runestones Have Been FoundMost of the medieval runestones that have been discovered were erected in Scandinavia. The vast majority were erected in Sweden with fewer in Denmark and Norway. The Uppland district of Sweden has over 1000 runestones. There have also been a few discovered in areas outside of Scandinavia where the ancient Norsemen visited. See the list below for some locations, outside of Scandinavia, where Runestones have been found.
- Isle of Man (Manx Runestones) - Thirty Runestones have been found on this island which is located in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain.
- Berezan Island - In 1905 a runestone was discovered on this island which is in the Black Sea (also called the Island of St Aitherios).
- Greenland - The Kingittorsuaq Runestone was found on Kingittorsuaq Island in northwestern Greenland.
- North America - Several rune stones have been found in North America; however the authenticity of all of them is in question. The two most famous North American runestones are the Kensington Runestone unearthed in Minnesota and the Heavener Runestone found in Oklahoma.
Examples of Runestone InscriptionsBelow we have listed several examples of inscriptions found on Runestones. This list shows runestones were created for many different reasons.
- An example of self promotion is found on a 11th century runestone from Uppland Sweden it states: "Vigmund had this stone carved in memory of himself, the cleverest of men. May God help the soul of Vigmund, the ship captain. Vigmund and Afrid carved this memorial while he lived."
- An example of a memorial for the dead can be found on the Dynna Stone in Gran Norway: "Gunnor, Thythrik's daughter, made a bridge in memory of her daughter Astrid. She was the most skilful girl in Hadeland."
- On the Rok Runestone in Sweden there is a memorial to a dead son: "In memory of Vemoor stand these runes. And Varinn coloured them, the father, in memory of his dead son."
- In Uppland Sweden there is a runestone referred to as U 73. This runestone was erected as a memorial, to record an inheritance, and also mentions a voyage to Greece. The inscription reads "These landmarks are made in memory of Inga's sons. She came to inherit from them, but these brothers Geroarr and his brothers came to inherit from her. They died in Greece." The memorial is to Inga's sons, who traveled to and died in Greece. The runestone also establishes that Inga's brothers inherited the land, the stone was on, after her death.