Inscription on knife spells ‘hirila’, which means ‘little sword’ in Old Norse.
Archaeologists in Denmark have found a 2000-year-old knife believed to be inscribed with the oldest runes ever discovered in the country.
The runic inscription, carved in the alphabet of Denmark’s earliest written language, was etched into an 8cm iron blade found in a grave below an urn in Tietgenbyen on the island of Funen, east of the central city of Odense.
“It’s a really exclusive find. It might not look like anything, a small piece of knife blade, currently rusty. But it is big because it is linked to very, very few finds with inscriptions on so early,” said Museum Inspector at the National Museum of Denmark, Peter Pentz.
The five characters are each about 0.5cm tall, followed by three grooves, which spell out the word ‘hirila’, which means “little sword” in Old Norse.
“What is Little Sword then? We interpret it as the name of the knife, but in principle, it could also be the name of the knife’s owner, 150 years after the birth of Christ quite precisely,” said Jakob Bonde, Museum inspector, at the Møntergården Museum.
“Little Sword” was found in Tietgenbyen east of Odense and just 15 kilometres away from where a comb from the same period with the runic inscription “harja” was found in 1865.
The knife will be displayed in the special exhibition “Little Sword” that will run at the Møntergården Museum from 2 February to 7 April.