Denmark’s oldest runes found on 2,000-year-old knife

Runes inscribed on an ancient knife found in Denmark may be the oldest ever found in the country.

There are 5 runic characters on the 8cm blade that was found in an ancient grave.

The 2,000-year-old knife was discovered on the central island of Funen, about 140km west of Copenhagen.

According to runologist Lisbeth M. Imer from the National Museum of Denmark, the runes spell out the word “hirala”.

This may translate to “little sword” in the language of the people who lived there between 500 BCE and 400 CE during the Danish Early Iron Age.

“Little sword” could refer to the owner of the blade, or the knife itself, according to a statement by the Møntergården museum in nearby Odense. The object will go on display at the Museum Odense alongside other artefacts from the site.

Dating back to about 150 CE, the runes on the knife are written in the oldest known Nordic text. The blade is about the same age as a bone comb inscribed with runes found nearby in 1865, making it among the oldest runic finds in Denmark.

The discovery comes a year after a 2,000-year-old runestone, possibly the oldest in the world, was discovered by archaeologists in Norway.

Discovered in another grave near Tyrifjord, west of Oslo, in 2021, the Norwegian runestone dates to 1-250 CE.

Being among the earliest written text in Scandinavia, such discoveries are an important part of developing an understand and interpreting the use of writing in ancient Nordic cultures.

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