Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Runes in the Eye of the Beholder

Back in the very early days of this blog I told you about something cool written by my Danish friend Rud Kjems. Now he's done it again: Rud just published an eminently readable book on the history of investigation of the Runamo pseudo-runes.

In the woods outside the town of Ronneby in the southern Swedish province of Blekinge is a flat cliff with a long striated ribbon across it. Irregularities in the surface of this ribbon look almost as if they might be written characters, why not runes? The site was mentioned in writing already by Saxo in the 12th century, who relates that King Valdemar sent his loremasters to Runamo to read the runes, but that they failed. Famous scholars throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries made repeated attempts at making sense of the thing, and some came up with long interesting readings about ancient kings and battles. Until geology and archaeology matured enough to be able to identify the formation as geology.

A long ancient crack in the bedrock has become filled with a crystalline mineral whose natural structure leads to transverse cracks looking like runes. There are in fact other similar features in the vicinity, all built the same way as the ancient quartz quarry I wrote about the other day. The many learned readings at Runamo through the centuries were just moonshine.

I had the pleasure to read Rud's book in manuscript form, and I'm thrilled to see the typography and the many fine illustrations. This is definitely a book to look out for if you're at all interested in Scandinavian archaeology and history.

Kjems, Rud. 2006. Runamo. Skriften der kom og gik. Forlaget Hikuin. Moesgård. 168 pp. ISBN 87-90814-42-8.
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Blogger Brady said...

I'm an undergraduate English major/aspiring writer in New Orleans. I've been trying to find a succinct way of explaining the Runamo as a pretext before a story that I've written. Would you mind if I use wording astonishingly close to yours?

15 March, 2007 12:46  
Blogger Martin said...

Please do! Some kind of attribution would be nice. And I'd like a copy when you publish it.

15 March, 2007 12:55  
Anonymous Quima said...

I'm in university majoring in literature and archaeology. A funny thing happened today, which I just thought I'd mention. My archaeology teachers have been blabbering about Finnur Magnússon for the better part of 2 years now, how wonderful he was, how great, what a pioneer he was, thanks to him we can read the scandinavian runes today...

Yet for some reason, he wasn't as great as all that. he went to Runamo in the 18th or 19th century I think and on deciphering the runes, reading them from right to left with a mirror, he managed to come up with a fantastic poem. Written in the exact same style as poems were in northern Scandinavia over a 1000 years ago. This poem looked to be a spell, urging the gods (aesir) to help the Danes against the Swedish people in some great battle..... of course about half a century later, after his death, people agreed that they were just geological formations and the Danes, who had for years been holding their head high, feeling good about themselves, because "they" made those runes buirried their head in the sand....

03 September, 2007 17:42  

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