These runes confuse the scientists. (Photo: NIKU)
When the archaeologist spotted the runic inscription, he was convinced that it was a practical joke carried out by his colleagues – but they turned out to be genuine. Now scientists are in doubt: Is the meaning of the runes on a broken wooden plate a naughty word or runic ABC?
This summer, archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) excavated parts of a medieval cemetery in the Old City of Oslo.
– At first I thought that some colleagues had carved runes as a prank, because they were very visible, even though the plate was covered in mud, says archaeologist and excavation team leader at NIKU, Egil Bauer to Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK).
But the inscription is genuine and the message from the Middle Ages is clear: fuþ
” fuþ” are the first three characters of the runic alphabet – but also the Norse word for the female genitalia when the last rune is pronounced d as in “bed” and not th as in “think”.
The Latin alphabet came to Norway together with Christianity around the year 1000 but did not replace runes. The writing systems were long used side by side before the runes went out of daily use in the 1400s.
The runes were covered in mud but easy to read. (Photo: NIKU)
– It is fun with runes. You feel you get closer to the people. Here somebody has been sitting and carved this. When I spotted it, I thought at first that it was a runic ABC. While others have reminded me that it may have a completely different meaning, Bauer laughs.
– It is amusing that people in the Middle Ages also were thinking about this and that. Fuþ/fud is popping up everywhere, explains Karin Fjellhammer Seim, retired professor of Old Norse language and literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
She has researched ambiguous rune rows, and has a doctorate in the field of popular rune use and medieval scribblings.
In the late Middle Ages, people went straight to the point when they carved runes into bones and pieces of wood. Those who carved them could probably be both horny and vicious when women were portrayed as nymphomaniac fudorg, says Fjellhammer Seim.
She tells that at the old pier in Bergen there are found many rune sticks that are just as naughty and is all about the man’s sexual organ.
Text modified by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews