After 250 years, ‘lost’ rune stone found at Dane’s home

A rune stone likely dating back to around the year 1000 has been discovered in northern Denmark, some 250 years after it was last seen, the National Museum of Denmark said on Thursday.

After 250 years, ‘lost’ rune stone found at Dane's home
Experts were able to match the runes to a 1767 drawing. Photo: Lisbeth Imer, National Museum of Denmark
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 Nationalmuseet
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. 

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How a Viking king inspired one of our best-known modern technologies

A Swede and American tell the story of how they hatched the idea for the moniker 'Bluetooth' over beers.

A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth
A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

At the end of the 1990s, Sven Mattisson, a Swedish engineer working at telecom group Ericsson, and Jim Kardach, an American employed by Intel, were among those developing the revolutionary technology.

In 1998, at the dawn of the “wireless” era, the two men were part of an international consortium that created a universal standard for the technology first developed by Ericsson in 1994.

But prior to that, they had struggled to pitch their wireless products. Intel had its Biz-RF wireless programme, Ericsson had MC-Link, while Nokia had its Low Power RF. Kardach, Mattisson and others presented their ideas at a seminar in Toronto in late 1997.

“Jim and I said that people did not appreciate what we presented,” Mattisson, now 65 and winding down his career at Ericsson, recalled in a recent interview with AFP.

The engineer, who had travelled all the way to Canada from Sweden for the one-hour pitch, decided to hang out with Kardach for the evening before flying home.

“We received a lukewarm reception of our confusing proposal, and it was at this time I realised we needed a codename for the project which everyone could use,” Kardach explained in a long account on his webpage.

‘Chauvinistic story’

To drown their sorrows, the two men headed for a local Toronto bar and ended up talking about history, one of Kardach’s passions. “We had some beers… and Jim is interested in history so he asked me about Vikings, so we talked at length about that,” said Mattisson, admitting that his recollection of that historic night is now somewhat foggy.

Kardach said all he knew about Vikings was that they ran “around with horned helmets raiding and looting places, and that they were crazy chiefs.”

Mattisson recommended Kardach read a well-known Swedish historical novel about the Vikings, entitled “The Long Ships”.

Set in the 10th century – “a chauvinistic story” about a boy taken hostage by Vikings, says Mattisson – one name in the book caught Kardach’s attention: that of the king of Denmark, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

A Bluetooth adapter from 2004. Photo: Stefan Gustavsson/SvD/TT


An important historic figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark’s nickname is said to refer to a dead tooth, or, as other tales have it, to his liking for blueberries or even a simple translation error.

During his reign, Denmark turned its back on its pagan beliefs and Norse gods, gradually converting to Christianity.

But he is best known for having united Norway and Denmark in a union that lasted until 1814.

A king who unified Scandinavian rivals – the parallel delighted those seeking to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

And the reference to the king goes beyond the name: the Bluetooth logo, which at first glance resembles a geometric squiggle, is in fact a superimposition of the runes for the letters “H” and “B”, the king’s initials.

Low-cost and with low power consumption, Bluetooth was finally launched in May 1998, using technology allowing computer devices to communicate with each other in short range without fixed cables.

The first consumer device equipped with the technology hit the market in 1999, and its name, which was initially meant to be temporary until something better was devised, became permanent.