Medieval artefacts found in East Mainland

Picture: Frank Bradford

Fragment of a Medieval Ecclesiastic Seal found in the East Mainland. (Picture: Frank Bradford)

Picture: Frank Bradford

The rune-inscribed lead strip. (Picture: Frank Bradford)

In addition to the Palaeolithic handaxe detailed here, a rune-inscribed strip of lead and a medieval ecclesiastic seal have been passed to the county archaeologist by Evie man, Alan Price.

The runes on the lead strip were confirmed as genuine at the weekend by Professor Michael Barnes, the eminent runologist, who was in the county to take part in the “Stones and Bones” Sanday Soulka.

The tablet is folded, and has runic inscriptions on both outer faces — although the lettering is upside down on one face in relation to the other. These runic-inscribed items belong to the period from the 12th to the 15th century.

The runic inscription covers most of both of the exposed faces.

On one side it reads irasabi or possibly krasaba; on the other: yniþik or possibly yliþik, with perhaps a damaged “i” following the “k”.

Neither sequence makes obvious sense, and it may be that there are further runes in the fold that would help make sense of the meaning of the text as a whole.

Over 60 lead tablets, or plaques, with runic inscriptions are now known and about ten lead crosses. Around half of these have texts that have proved indecipherable.

Those that do give meaning, suggest a context of “Christian magic”, often seemingly invoked to cure or ward off sickness. Perhaps it was sometimes considered enough to place runic-style writing on them, whether or not the writing made sense. Perhaps on occasion the writer was only semi-literate and garbled his text.

The seal was examined by Dr Barbara Crawford and Professor Richard Oram, who suggest that, given the style, its dates from between the 12th and 15th centuries, and may have a clerical origin. It features a hooded figure kneeling in prayer.

The exact area of the finds is not being disclosed, but both artefacts were found in an area of the East Mainland where, in 1974, a number of  Norse items were recovered, including a fragment of a soapstone pot, spindle-whorls and a Nuremberg “jetton”, a counter used as a 16th century counting aid.

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