Children of the Runestones. 300 A.D. Sweden.

Two pictures of the same ancient picture stone at Navsta, Torsvi, Uppland, Sweden.

Over 1,700 years ago, ancient Swedes began leaving huge memorial stones for their descendants. These stones all had short messages – the “runes” – engraved on them in wonderful jagged, swirling Viking script. The Runestones. On other stones they carved pictoral hieroglyphics. The picture stones.

Generation after generation, descendants of the runestone makers have visited these stones that hold their old words; in ancient forests; in farmers fields; at roadsides; in churchyards and on beaches. They venerate them, proudly protect them and feel at home with them. They are family.

Some 4,000 runic inscriptions are scattered all over Sweden and date back to the 201 to 300 AD or CE – the very beginning of Late Antiquity. The Swedes have numbered and itemised every single one. About 2,500 of these are made on rune stones, most of them from the 11th century A.D. – the end of the Viking Age. They weren’t made as grave stones but as memorials. Most Swedish rune stones lay in the province of Uppland, others sit in Södermanland, Östergötland, Västergötland, Småland and other provinces.

These images show men, women and children in the late 1800s and early 1900s visiting their runestones. They pose beside the inscriptions, stand beside them as if to show us how big they are, how significant. But these photographs aren’t intended to show us anything.

These are pictures of people with their ancient family.

Family photos.

Credit: Riksantikvarieämbetet – Swedish National Heritage Board archives.

Rune stone in Herstadberg, Östergötland, Sweden, c. 1880s.
Three girls at runestone Ög 46 on Ströbo meadow at Herrstaberg.

The inscription says:
“Vibern raised this stone in memory of Solva, his brother.”
Runestone in Antuna, Uppland, Sweden, c. 1890.
The Curman children with their french governess at a runestone (U 107) at the Antuna estate, Sweden.

The inscription says:
“Gerlak had … in memory of Häming, his son; and Ärnmund in memory of Holmfrid, his wife,
and in memory of Una/Unna, (his) daughter”.
Picture stones at a farmstead at Änge in Buttle, on the island of Gotland. 1937.
Runestone in Bromsta, Odensala, Uppland, Sweden. 1925.
Man standing in the snow at a runestone (U 444) in Bromsta in Odensala.

The inscription says:
“Ulv and Härbjörn and Näsbjörn and Häming had the stone raised in memory of Borgulv, their father”.
Girl a with teddy bear at runestone (Sö 305) in Söderby, Botkyrka, Södermanland, Sweden. 1930.

The inscription says:
“Sibbe and Tjarve had the stone raised in memory of Torkel, their father”.
Runic inscription at Kiholm, Södermanland, Sweden. 1930.
Runic inscription (Sö 344) on a rock by the Södertälje Bay north of Kiholm.

The linguist and professor Elias Wessén is filling in the inscription, which says:
“Odbjörn and Sigbjörn and Gudbjörn, those brothers had this stone cut in memory of Björn, their hale father”.
Runestone (Sö 162), in Täckhammar, Bärbo,
Södermanland, Sweden

The inscription says:
“Gunnlev, Sigmund cut the stone in memory of Skärder”.
Girl poses with runic inscription (U 99) on a flat rock at Skillinge, Sollentuna, Uppland, Sweden in 1931.

The inscription says:
“Atfare and Torgils had the runes carved in memory of Horse, their father, and in memory of Vidfare, their brother”.
Runic inscription in Granby, Orkesta, Uppland, Sweden. 1940.

Rock with runic inscription (U 337).
The inscription says:
“Häming and Själve and Johan they have cut (the stone) in memory of their father Finnvid and Vargas and Ragnfrid and their mother, and in memory of Ingegärd and in memory of Kalv and Gärdar and … He alone owned all at first.
These were their kinsmen. May God help their spirits. Visäte carved these runes“.
Rune stone, Dalby, Adelsö, Uppland, Sweden. 1917.

Runestone (U 10) where it was found at Stora Dalby on Adelsö island. Today the runestone is in the churchyard at Adelsö.

The inscription says:
“May this stone stand in memory of Öpir.”
Runestone (U 53) in the Old Town in Stockholm, at the corner of streets Kåkbrinken and Prästgatan. 1915.
The runestone was used as building material in the foundations of the house and the cannon was placed there
in the 17th century to protect the corner from passing coaches.

The inscription says:
“Torsten and Frögunn they (raised the) … stone in memory of … their son.”
Runestones (G 207 & 208) at Stenkumla church on the island of Gotland., Sweden. 1923.

The inscription on runestone G 207 says:
“Botmund and Botraiv and Gunnvat, they raised the stone … farm and sat in the south with the skins (= traded fur). And he met his end at Ulvshale”.

The inscription on runstone G 208 says:
“Botmund and Botraiv and Gunnvat they raised this stone … …-hvatr(?), their father.
May God and God’s mother help his soul better than we could pray”.
Runestone (Ög 106) with animal figure, at Kärna Church, Östergötland, Sweden. 1907.
Only two runes of the inscription remain.
Mrs Hilda Evertz sweeping a flat rock (U 102) with a runic inscription in Viby, Uppland, Sweden. 1924.
Mrs Evertz rediscovered the stone whilst sweeping off moss from the rock, to feed to her hungry pigs.

The inscription says:
“Kale had this flat rock carved in memory of his two sons, and he and Ingetora made a bridge,
a great memorial before many men”.
Boy at a runestone (Ög 151) in Furingstad, Östergötland, Sweden. c. 1900.

The inscription says:
“Torbjörn raised this stone in memory of V.,
Sven’s brother”.
Runestone, (U 518) at Västra Ledinge, Uppland, Sweden

The inscription says:
“Torgärd and Sven, they had this stone raised in memory of Ormer and Ormulv and Fröger. He met his end in the sound of Sila (Selaön island), and the others abroad in Greece. May God help their spirits and souls”.
Boy posing in 1928 with a runic inscription from 1873, Brantevik, Skåne, Sweden.
Runic boulder “Gökstenen” (The Cuckoo Stone), Härad, Södermanland, Sweden. 1922.

The images on the The Cuckoo Stone are from the Old Norse Sigurd Saga.
The meaning of the runes is uncertain and difficult to interpret.

An expert on runestones named Säve reads it to say:
“Iasio raised the stone, by himself, in memory of Thuar, father Slodes, and Brand, his father…
(carved the runes) Iurar in Kaum”.
Runic inscription “The Sigurd Carving”, at Mora, Jäder, Södermanland, Sweden. 1928.

The Sigurd carving (Sö 101) on the Ramsund rock. Harald Faith-Ell and Elias Wessén are using paint to outline the carving.
The Viking Age carving depicts the Old Norse Sigurd saga of the hero Sigurd who killed the dragon Fafner.

The inscription says:
“Sigrid , Alríkr’s mother, Orm’s daughter, made this bridge for the soul of Holmger, father of Sigröd, her husbandman”.
The runic bolder “Jarlabanke’s stone” (U 101) at Södra Sätra, Sollentuna, Uppland, Sweden. 1934.

The inscription says:
“Häming and Jarlabanke they had the path cleared and the bridges made in memory of their father;
and Estrid in memory of her sons Ingefast and Ingvar. May God help their spirits”.
Runestone (U 43) at farmstead in Törnby, Skå, Uppland, Sweden. 1934.

The inscription says:
“Ofeg and Sigmar and Fröbjörn they raised (the stone) in memory of Jörund,
their father, Gunna’s husbandman. Ärnfast cut these runes”.
Two girls pose at a rock with a runic inscription (U 90) south of Säby farmstead in Järfälla, Uppland, Sweden.

The inscription says:
“Kale had this rock-slab cut in memory of his brother Tärv,
and Munde in memory of his kinsman-by-marriage”.

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