The find took place during installation work of a lightning conductor at Hagby Church, west of the central Swedish university town of Uppsala. It was found underground a few metres from the building.
“We knew that there had been a medieval church there, but didn't know that this rune stone was in that exact location,” Emelie Sunding, archaeologist at Uppland Museum, who was present during the construction project to preserve any historic remains discovered, told The Local on Wednesday.
Where the rune stone was found. Photo: Emelie Sunding/Upplandsmuseet
Archaeologists believe that the rune stone, measuring around 180 by 135 centimetres, was first erected in the mid-11th century. Records show that it was used as a threshold leading up to the church porch in the Middle Ages, before somehow disappearing when the old building was torn down in the 1830s.
“The stone is known from before. It was depicted in the 17th century and when the medieval church was torn down in the 19th century we have written records that mention the stone as lost and that it had maybe been moved,” said Sunding.
The rune stone is well-preserved, but one piece is missing so not all the inscriptions can be deciphered. A drawing from the 17th century quotes some of the runes as saying: “Jarl and …stone for Gerfast, his father”.
According to archaeologists, the stone was made by Fot, a runemaster who lived and worked in the area in the mid 11th-century and has created and signed several famous rune stones found in Sweden.
“This one isn't signed, but we can tell from the style and the ornaments that this is Fot,” said Sunding.
The runestone will now be cleaned and then possibly re-erected at Hagby Church.
A drawing showing the carvings on the stone. Photo: Emelie Sunding/Upplandsmuseet
It seems to happen every now and then that ancient rune stones pop up in unexpected places in Scandinavia. Earlier this year a Danish man found a 1000-year-old stone in his garden.
And in 2013 a group of university students stumbled across a historic rock that had been hiding in plain sight for nearly 300 years near Vaxholm in the Stockholm archipelago.