2,000-Year-Old Knife With Denmark’s Oldest Runes Found On Funen

Archaeologists believe they have found an almost 2000-year-old knife it could be the Oldest found in Denmark as suggested by the engraving on it. 

The 8cm iron knife was found in a grave below an urn near Odense on the island of Funen. It has five letters engraved on it followed by three grooves. 

It was deduced that the engraving is done in Runic inscription which is the language of Denmark's earliest written language. The words in Old Norse spell out 'Hirila' meaning "Little Sword".

At first, Jakob Bonde (the City's museum curator and archeologist) thought it was an ordinary knife, as the runes were not visible, but after it was cleaned by conservators it was obvious that the knife contained the word 'Hirila'. 

They are the oldest runes ever found in Denmark along with an inscribed bone comb found nearby in 1865.

Jakob further said "For me personally it’s remarkable to have made this discovery.”, “It’s like getting a note from the past. 

It’s an amazing find for us and it says a lot about the development of the earliest Scandinavian language,” He also stated that "such people were highly influenced by Romans."

“We are referring to a period where we in Denmark had a lot of connectivity with the Romans and the ones who were living in this society tried to look Roman, so to speak, by acquiring such things and showing a Roman display. Everything Roman was in fashion.”

The writing refers to the knife itself rather than the owner of the knife as nothing about that person aside from the fact they were someone with high status in society, is known.

The knife will be displayed along other with artifacts found at the site from 2 February at Museum Odense in Montergaarden.

Earlier, King Herald Bluetooth in about 965 erected the Jelling Stones at Jutland, in memory of his parents. 

The stones describe Harald's achievements and it contains Scandinavia’s oldest image of Christ, it is also known as 'Denmark's birth certificate'. The knife however is believed to be 800 years older than the stones.

"The discovery could help to reveal more about Danish history," said Lisbeth Imer who is a runologist at the National Museum of Denmark.

She further said “It is scarce for us to find runes that are as old as those on this knife, and it offers a distinctive chance for us to gain knowledge about Denmark’s earliest written language and further about the language spoken during the Iron Age,”

"Being able to read and write was associated with both special status and power and the first indication of such people is found on Funen because during that time in history, ability in reading and writing was not especially widespread and in the early days of runic history, those who were able to write amounted to a small intellectual elite."

“In the early days of runic history, those able to write constituted a small intellectual elite, and the first traces of such people is to be found on Funen.”