Researchers had long since given up hope of ever recovering the lost Viking artefact when a farmer contacted Museum Thy in November to say that he had a large stone with some stripes on it in his back yard that he thought experts might want to see.
The museum's archaeologist Charlotte Boje Andersen and runologist Lisbeth Imer from the National Museum visited the farmer this week and were absolutely shocked by what they found.
“It was one of the biggest moments in my time as an archaeologists and a completely one-of-a-kind discovery that highlights how important Thy and the western part of the Limfjord were in the Viking era,” she said.
The farmer, Ole Kappel, said he bought farmland some 25 years ago and had the farm torn down. Amidst the ruins was a large pile of stones that he took to his own home. Among the pile was a fragment of a rune stone last seen in 1767, when it had been recreated in a drawing.
The 1767 drawing with the three found fragments highlighted. Photo: National Museum of Denmark
Imer compared the drawing to the fragment and concluded that it was indeed the so-called Ybdy stone based on the runes inscribed in its side.
The drawings showed that the stone had a runic text that read: “Troels and Leve's sons sat together on this stone after Leve”. On the fragment, Imer could read the name ‘Þorgisl', which was Old Norse for ‘Troels'.
“Unfortunately the top of the stone is missing, but when I compare it to the drawing from 1767 there isn't much doubt that we are talking about a fragment from the same stone,” she said.
While Andersen and Imer were thrilled with the fragment, Kappel remembered that he had used some of the rock piles in a terrace in the front of his house. When the trio went to take a look, they could see that two stones looked similar in shape to the rune stone fragment. They dug it up and once again had a pleasant surprise.
“On one of them we managed to find the top of the runes that were missing from the fragment from the back yard. And on the third stone there was a trace of the runes ‘nsi', which can be found on the drawings,” Imer said.
Anders and Christian Kappel helped remove another fragment of the Ydby stone that was used in the house's terrace. Photo: Lisbeth Imer, National Museum of Denmark
She believes that the rune stone was broken up into at least eight pieces and now nearly have of them have been found.
The three rune stone fragments will be displayed at Heltborg Museum through Easter before being transferred to the National Museum. The search for the other pieces will continue.