Thorsberg chape

Last updated
Illustration of the Thorsberg chape showing the runic inscriptions on both sides. Thorsberg Ortband.png
Illustration of the Thorsberg chape showing the runic inscriptions on both sides.

The Thorsberg chape [1] (a bronze piece belonging to a scabbard) is an archeological find from the Thorsberg moor, Germany, that appears to have been deposited as a votive offering. [2] It bears an Elder Futhark runic inscription, one of the earliest known, dating to roughly 200 CE.

The artifact has been localized on archeological grounds to the region between the Rhine and the Elbe. [2] [3] [4]

Thorsberg chape
ᛟᚹᛚᚦᚢᚦᛖᚹᚨᛉ / ᚾᛁᚹᚨᛃᛗᚨᚱᛁᛉ
owlþuþewaz / niwaje͡mariz
"Wolthuthewaz is well-renowned," or "the servant of Ullr, the renowned."

The first element owlþu, for wolþu-, means "glory," "glorious one," cf. Old Norse Ullr , Old English wuldor. The second element, -þewaz, means "slave, servant." The whole compound is a personal name or title, "servant of the glorious one" or "servant/priest of Ullr." On the reverse, ni- is the negative particle, waje- corresponds to "woe, ill" (Old Norse vei), and the final element is -mariz "famous" (Old English mǣre). (The "e" and "m" are written together, as a bind-rune, an unusual early example but probably not linguistically significant. [5] ) The second word thus translates to "not ill-famous," i.e., "famous, renowned" or "not of ill fame, not dishonored." Similar double negatives are found on other runic inscriptions. [2] The translation of the inscription can thus be either "Wolthuthewaz is well-renowned," or "the servant of Ullr, the renowned." If the first part refers to the god Ullr, it is the only reference to that god from south of Denmark, and also, if a personal name, the only German example of a person named for a specific Germanic god. [4]

Another reading, avoiding the emendation of the first element, reads the first letter ideographically, "Odal," resulting in o[þalan] w[u]lþuþewaz / niwajmariz "inherited property of Wulthuthewaz, the renowned." However, the owner's name is not in the possessive case as would be expected with such a usage; moreover, the rune Fehu, signifying simply "property," would be more apposite; "odal" specifically denoted real estate. [6]

It is possible that the inscription is poetic; it can be read as an alliterative long-line. [7]

See also


  1. The inscription has been given the Rundata (Scandinavian Runic-text Data Base) inventory designation DR 7.
  2. 1 2 3 Tineke Looijenga, Texts & Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions, Leyden/Boston: Brill, 2003, ISBN   90-04-12396-2, p. 259.
  3. Hans Frede Nielsen, "The Dialectal Provenance of the Gallehus Inscription," in Von Thorsberg nach Schleswig: Sprache und Schriftlichkeit eines Grenzgebietes im Wandel eines Jahrtausends: internationales Kolloquium im Wikinger Museum Haithabu vom 29. September3. Oktober 1994, ed. Klaus Düwel, Edith Marold, and Christiane Zimmermann with Lars E. Worgull, Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde Ergänzungsband 25, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2000, ISBN   3-11-016978-9, pp. 25-36, p. 31.
  4. 1 2 Henrik Williams, "From Meldorf to Haithabu: Some Early Personal Names from Schleswig-Holstein," Von Thorsberg nach Schleswig pp. 149-66, p. 157.
  5. Mindy MacLeod, Bind-Runes: An Investigation of Ligatures in Runic Epigraphy, Uppsala: Institutionen för nordiska sprak, Uppsala Universitet, 2002, ISBN   91-506-1534-3, p. 51, note 17.
  6. Williams, p. 156.
  7. Tonya Kim Dewey, Versatility in Versification: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Metrics, Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics 74, New York: Lang, 2009, ISBN   978-1-4331-0578-4, p. 7.

Related Research Articles


Hedeby was an important Danish Viking Age trading settlement near the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula, now in the Schleswig-Flensburg district of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is the most important archaeological site in Schleswig-Holstein. Around 965, chronicler Abraham ben Jacob visited Hedeby and described it as, "a very large city at the very end of the world's ocean."

Týr Norse deity

Týr is a god in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, from which most surviving narratives about gods among the Germanic peoples stem, Týr sacrifices his arm to the monstrous wolf Fenrir, who bites off his limb while the gods bind the animal, and he is foretold to be consumed by the similarly monstrous dog Garmr during the events of Ragnarök. In wider Germanic mythology, he is known in Old English as Tīw and in Old High German as Ziu, all stemming from the Proto-Germanic theonym *Tīwaz, meaning '(the) God'. Little information about the god survives beyond Old Norse sources. Due to the etymology of the god's name and the shadowy presence of the god in the extant Germanic corpus, some scholars propose that Týr may have once held a more central place among the deities of early Germanic mythology.

Ullr Norse deity

In early Germanic paganism, *Wulþuz ("glory") appears to have been an important concept, perhaps personified as a god, or an epithet of an important god; it is continued in Old Norse tradition as Ullr, a god associated with archery.

Æsir Principal pantheon in Norse mythology

The Æsir are the gods of the principal pantheon in Norse religion. They include Odin, Frigg, Hother, Thor, Baldr and Týr. The second Norse pantheon is the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage war against each other, resulting in a unified pantheon.

The Elder Futhark Odal rune, also known as the Othala rune, represents the o sound. Its reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *ōþalan "heritage; inheritance, inherited estate".

Elder Futhark System of runes for Proto-Germanic

The Elder Futhark, Elder Fuþark, Older Futhark, Old Futhark or Germanic Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic peoples for Northwest Germanic dialects in the Migration Period, the dates of which are debated among scholars. Runic inscriptions are found on artifacts, including jewelry, amulets, plateware, tools, weapons, and, famously, runestones, from the 2nd to the 8th centuries.

A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of Elder Futhark, Anglo-Frisian Futhorc and Younger Futhark.

This article lists gods and goddesses that may be reconstructed for Proto-Germanic or Common Germanic Migration period paganism, or which figure in both West and North Germanic mythology. See list of Germanic deities for a complete list of Germanic gods and goddesses, including those for whom there is insufficient attestation to produce Common Germanic reconstructions.

Bind rune Ligature of two or more runes

A bind rune is a ligature of two or more runes. They are extremely rare in Viking Age inscriptions, but are common in earlier (Proto-Norse) and later (medieval) inscriptions.

Sjörup Runestone

The Sjörup Runestone is a runestone in Scania, Sweden, from approximately 1000 AD that is classified as being in runestone style RAK. The Karlevi Runestone, the Egtved Runestone and the Hällestad Runestones may be connected to it.

England runestones Group of runestones

The England runestones is a group of about 30 runestones in Northern Europe which refer to Viking Age voyages to England. They constitute one of the largest groups of runestones that mention voyages to other countries, and they are comparable in number only to the approximately 30 Greece Runestones and the 26 Ingvar Runestones, of which the latter refer to a Viking expedition to the Middle East. They were engraved in Old Norse with the Younger Futhark.

Sigurd stones

The Sigurd stones form a group of seven or eight runestones and one picture stone that depict imagery from the legend of Sigurd the dragon slayer. They were made during the Viking Age and they constitute the earliest Norse representations of the matter of the Nibelungenlied and the Sigurd legends in the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda and the Völsunga saga.

Holmby Runestone

The Holmby Runestone, listed as DR 328 in the Rundata catalog, is a Viking Age memorial runestone with an image of a ship that is located in Holmby, which is about 2 kilometers southeast of Flyinge, Scania, Sweden.

Sønder Kirkeby Runestone

The Sønder Kirkeby Runestone, listed as runic inscription DR 220 in the Rundata catalog, is a Viking Age memorial runestone that was discovered in Sønder Kirkeby, which is located about 5 kilometers east of Nykøbing Falster, Denmark.

Uppland Runic Inscription 485

Uppland Runic Inscription 485 or U 485 is the Rundata catalog number for a Viking Age memorial runestone that is located in Marma, which is about six kilometers northeast of Knivsta, Uppsala County, Sweden, which was in the historic province of Uppland.

Södermanland Runic Inscription 352

Södermanland Runic Inscription 352 or Sö 352 is a Viking Age memorial runestone located at Linga, which is about two kilometers south of Järna, Stockholm County, Sweden, which was in the historic province of Södermanland. The inscription depicts a ship with an anchor and a portion of the runic text uses same-stave bind runes on the ship mast.

Östergötland Runic Inscription MÖLM1960;230

Östergötland Runic Inscription MÖLM1960;230 or Ög MÖLM1960;230 is the Rundata catalog number for a memorial runestone that is located near a church in Törnevalla, which is 2 kilometers east of Linghem, Östergötland County, Sweden, which was in the historic province of Östergötland. The runestone has an inscription which refers to a Viking Age mercantile guild and depicts a ship.

Bjälbo runestones

The Bjälbo runestones are three Viking Age memorial runestones, one of which has been lost, located at Bjälbo, which is a village in Mjölby Municipality, Östergötland, Sweden. One of the inscriptions provides evidence of the existence of guilds in Sweden during this period.

Kyrkogården Runestones

The Kyrkogården Runestones are three Viking Age memorial runestones located at the cemetery of St. Mary's Church in Sigtuna, Stockholm County, Sweden, in the historic province of Uppland. One of the runic inscriptions documents the existence of a Viking Age mercantile guild in Sweden.

Danish March

The terms Danish March and March of Schleswig are used to refer to a territory in modern-day Schleswig-Holstein north of the Eider and south of the Danevirke. It was established in the early Middle Ages as a March of the Frankish Empire to defend against the Danes. The term "Danish March" is a modern designation not found in mediaeval sources. According to the Royal Frankish Annals the Danish King led his troops "into the March" in 828. In the 852 Yearbook of Fulda there is mention of a "Guardian of the Danish Border".