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'Very rare' runestone found in Sweden

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'Very rare' runestone found in Sweden
The runestone found at Lena Church. Photo: Hans Göthberg/Uppland Museum
12:00 CEST+02:00
A 1000-year-old runestone which could be the missing piece of an archaeological puzzle has been found in Sweden.

The rock – measuring around 30 by 35 centimetres – was found during renovation work of the stone wall outside Lena Church north of Uppsala.

"We found it when the wall was broken down and put back together," Robin Lucas, archaeologist at the Uppland Museum, told The Local. "It's from the classic runestone-erecting period of the 11th century."

Four runes can be seen on the stone – "an ua" – but most of the inscriptions are missing from the fragment. Neither word is complete, but can potentially be read as "... he was..." or "... he has become".

More than half of Sweden's runestones have been found in the Uppland region, but this particular one still stands out from the rest because it was made of limestone.

"Runestones made of limestone are very rare in Uppland. Usually, granite dominates. In areas with a lot of limestone, such as Gotland and Öland, it is more common. But limestone does exist in Uppland in small pockets, so it may very well be from around here," said Lucas.

Only one piece of runestone made of limestone has so far been found in the area, also at Lena Church many years ago, and archaeologists believe the two fragments are part of the same stone.

The first fragment, which has been tentatively dated to the late 11th or early 12th century, reads: "... Åsbjörn and... land. May God deceive those who failed him."

"That is a curious formulation," said Lucas. "Most runestones are from Christian origin, just like these ones. They usually say things like 'praise the Lord', so it is quite uncommon to use a stone like that to ask for vengeance."

Combining the two fragments, the archaeologist now believes that it could have belonged to someone from the early Middle Ages, who might have been betrayed and killed abroad.
 
A team of archaeologists will continue the search for more stones in the coming weeks to find out what happened back then. "We will be paying really close attention to other parts of the wall. Hopefully we'll find more stones that way."
 
 
Article by Emma Löfgren and Nele Schröder
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