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Orkney runes: The new blog

Welcome to the Orkney runes blog!

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Dear reader,

you might have found this blog because you follow my work or because you googled something to do with runes and Orkney. Here, I will regularly share some musings about my PhD project “Runic writing in the diaspora: Expression of a Norse identity?” which is supervised by the Institute for Northern Studies, UHI in Kirkwall and the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. It is an Applied Research Collaboration, funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, and as a non-academic partner, Orkney Museum, which hosts some of the inscriptions I work with, is also involved.

The “old” blog posts can be found here: Blog at INS page

I hope you enjoy my musings, and if you have any further questions about my research or suggestions for topics, feel free to contact me!

Exhibition ended

Now my temporary exhibition on runes at Orkney Museum is ended, and I spent most of yesterday returning the loaned items to their owners. While that was very sad, I have good news: We have filmed all of the exhibition and at some point it will be made available online. I will post a link here once the virtual display is finished.

In the exhibition, I asked visitors for their suggestions what might be written on the inside of the tiny lead amulet from Quoys which cannot be unfolded without breaking it. Here are two beautiful ideas:

“He who joys and grieves, he wears the amulet the rainbow weaved.”

“From the darkness preserve me”

What do you think?

Upcoming exhibition on Runes in Orkney

Exciting news! As part of my Applied Research Collaborative Studentship, I am currently preparing an exhibition about “Runes in Orkney” at Orkney Museum. It runs from 9 March to 30 March at the museum’s special exhibition room and is free entry during the museum’s opening hours.

I’m happy to confirm that some rune-inscribed objects from Orkney will be on display which have never been displayed anywhere before, and there will also be works by local artists and designers who continue to be inspired by Orkney’s runic heritage.

Runes in Orkney Poster-1.jpg

A completely non-runic post

Seeing as all good things come in threes, here is another link to a guest blog post I recently wrote. This one was for SGSAH (Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities) who are funding my PhD research along with UHI. In a complete departure from my usual focus on runes, this post discusses the process of completing a PhD and how chess, of all things, helps me do it.

What chess does to my PhD

Where to find Orkney runes … in Edinburgh

As you will have gathered from my previous post, Orkney is amazing. If you are not local and have the chance to travel there, do it! However, getting to Orkney is not easy and can be quite expensive. Therefore, here is a handy guide how to find Orkney runes if you cannot make it to our beautiful archipelago.

In fact, you can find a surprising number of Orcadian runic inscriptions right in the Scottish capital namely in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. If you are wondering how they got there, this is mostly due to gentlemen with antiquarian interests in the 19th and earlier 20th century who excavated or bought the objects and then donated them to the museum or the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Here is a list of objects which are currently on display (and it’s free entry, too!):

In the “Early People” galleries, you will find a display case on the history of writing. This contains a rune-inscribed steatite spindle whorl from Stromness and bear’s tooth inscribed with “futhark” from the Brough of Birsay (a copy of it is on display in Orkney Museum). P1020396

This is the case you want to be looking for. Not only runes but plenty of other inscribed objects, too

Next to this case, rune-inscribed stones are on display. Among others from the rest of Scotland, there is a stone with two different inscriptions from the Brough of Birsay, a stone with potentially two twig runes from near Brodgar Farm and even a fragment of a Maeshowe inscription – it ended up there after a failed attempt to take a plaster cast of the inscription in the 19th century made the whole thing fall off the tomb wall.

P1020389

The rune-inscribed stone from the Brough of Birsay was discovered by Hugh Marwick in 1927

Of course, the museum has a lot more to offer. If you are there, don’t forget to look out for the magnificent Hunterston Brooch, and take special note of the runes on its back. Also worth a visit is for example the amazing Skaill Hoard, the largest Viking silver hoard ever found in Orkney, or the beautiful Lewis Chessmen.