The runestones of Medelpad

I have been back from Sweden for a while now, but hadn’t got round to sorting through my runestone photos yet. The reason, though, is a good one – I just finished a first full draft of my PhD thesis. Now I’m getting round to looking through all the photos I took in Medelpad, and want to share some of the beautiful local runestones with you. I’m giving the signum for each stone, so those readers who are inclined to learn more about them, can look them up in the Scandinavian Runic Database or use the Swedish wikipedia – and the soon-to-be-published scholarly edition of the runic inscriptions of Medelpad, not to forget.

This is M 1, from Nolby:


M 2, now next to the church at Njurunda, is sadly only a fragment. We spent quite a while there, discussing the name on it, because it could be both male or female.


M 11 stands in the impressive grave field of Högom. As you can see, its edges are broken off, but luckily only to such an extent that almost the entire inscription remains readable.


These two, M 4 and M 5, are now both found next to the churchyard fence in Attmarby. The smaller stone, now only a fragment, is M 4 – and could be the most northerly Invar-stone (discussing the fatal journey to the east by Ingvar the Far-Travelled) that is currently known.


M 7, the fragment below, is built into the church wall at Tuna. Our lucky groups of field runologists was treated to some excellent organ music while inspecting the inscription.


M 8 now stands at Sköle, the Hembygdsgård of Tuna commune. And yes, it has its own little roof. It also demonstrated that not all runestones were carved with equal aesthetic skill.


These two, M 15 and M 16, now stand next to the church at Skön. Both rune animals’ heads on these are shown in the birds’ eye perspective, which makes these potentially some of the older runestones in the area.



In addition, a report about the 2019 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference in Durham, which I co-authored with Dr Rebecca Merkelbach has been published in the current issue of Kyngervi Journal. It’s worth checking out the other contributions, too, if you have an interest in Norse culture: Kyngervi Journal


Speed dating the runes of Medelpad

Once again, I am about to head away from Orkney on the overnight boat to Aberdeen. This time, my journey leads to Sweden, Sundsvall in Medelpad to be precise. And what will I be doing there? I have a speed date with some amazing runestones.

It is the annual field runologists’ meeting where runologists from all corners of Europe as well as the USA and Russia come together in a chosen area to examine the local runic inscriptions, discuss all things runology and exchange ideas. As part of it, there’s also a public event, a “Speed date with the runes of Medelpad” where many runologists will give quick talks about certain aspects of the runes of Medelpad. It will be in Swedish (and other Scandinavian languages) and happens at Danslogen in Sundsvall on Thursday, 23rd May, at 7 PM. It’s free entry, so better come early to get a space!

Speed-date med Medelpads runor

If you come, you’ll also get to hear me discuss some aspects of the memory of voyages in a comparison of the Medelpad-ish runestone M 4 from Attmarby and the Maeshowe inscription Or Barnes 24 from Orkney.

Reflections on the exhibition

Here is a little guest contribution, reflecting on the exhibition as part of my PhD and what I have learned from it. It’s on the SGSAH Blog where you can also find lots of other interesting contributions, ranging from advice on the PhD process to glimpses of the many other fascinating projects Arts and Humanities PhD students across Scotland are working on.

SGSAH Guest Blog Post

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.


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.