Archaeologists find wooden object inscribed with runes

The object was discovered during excavations by the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) during preparatory works for the medieval park in the Old Town of Oslo.

The team previously found a falcon figure in the same context layer whilst excavating a waste layer, in which both discoveries dates from around the 13th century.

The latest discovery is a roughly cut wooden object that measures 11.4 centimetres in length, carved with eight runes that has been deciphered by Kristel Zilmer, professor of runology at the Universitetet i Oslo.


Zilmer proposes that the text is an owner’s inscription, with the name spelled as ‘asbin’ and probably stands for ‘Ásbjǫrn’, a common Old Norse male name that can be found in medieval writings often written in Latin script. The rest of the text in Norse is ‘á mik’ which means ‘owns me’.

The shape of the object suggests that it was used as a label or marker, possibly attached to something to indicate that ‘Asbjørn owns me’ to mark his property, such as goods or personal items.

Although we do not know what Asbjørn actually owned, the marker gives us the name of a real person who lived in Oslo in the 13th century, giving an insight into the city’s trading activity during the 13th century.

He was probably a trader that operated in the Klemetsallmenningen area of Olso around the harbour, where artisans had their stalls along the streets and sold products such as shoes and boots, combs, iron tools, weapons, fine forging products, turned and made vessels, as well as foods such as bread, meat products and fish.

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