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Nov 25, 2013

Medieval Mondays: Christian Viking Runestone Uncovered in Medievalist's Yard

It's every medievalist's dream come true--to find a rare artifact from the Middle Ages in their own back yard.

That recently happened to Dr. Sarah Jane Gibbon, a specialist in early church history, when her father found this fragment of a runestone on her farm.

It helps, of course, that she lives in the Orkney Islands, one of the richest areas for archaeological finds in the United Kingdom, and that's saying a lot. These rugged islands off the north coast of Scotland were home to an advanced Neolithic culture that made some amazing tombs and stone circles. Much later in the Middle Ages, it was home to a colony of Vikings.

What's interesting about this runestone is that it's using Viking runes to express Latin words, in this case, “who art in heaven hallowed”, part of the Lord's Prayer. Thus this runestone dates to after the Vikings had converted to Christianity. No similar inscription has ever been uncovered in the Orkneys or the Shetland Islands further north.

I bet Dr. Gibbon and her dad will be looking down a lot more as they walk around the property.

Image courtesy The Orcadian.