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.


Chape has had various meanings in English, but the predominant one is a protective fitting at the bottom of a scabbard or sheath for a sword or dagger. Historic blade weapons often had leather scabbards with metal fittings at either end, sometimes decorated. These are generally either in some sort of U shape, protecting the edges only, or a pocket shape covering the sides of the scabbard as well. The reinforced end of a single-piece metal scabbard can also be called the chape.

Scabbard sheath for large blades

A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.

Thorsberg moor Bog and iron age deposit site

The Thorsberg moor near Süderbrarup in Anglia, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, is a peat bog in which the Angles deposited votive offerings for approximately four centuries. It is the location of important Roman Iron Age finds, including early Elder Futhark runic inscriptions such as the Thorsberg chape, a Roman helmet, a shield buckle, and an early example of socks. The finds are of similar importance as the contemporaneous finds from Illerup and Vimose in Denmark.

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

Rhine river in Western Europe

The Rhine is a European river that begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Elbe major river in Central Europe

The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia, then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km (68 mi) northwest of Hamburg. Its total length is 1,094 kilometres (680 mi).

The inscription reads:

owlþuþewaz / niwaje͡mariz [2]
ᛟᚹᛚᚦᚢᚦᛖᚹᚨᛉ / ᚾᛁᚹᚨᛃᛗᚨᚱᛁᛉ

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]

Old Norse North Germanic language

Old Norse was a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements from about the 9th to the 13th century.

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.

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

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" denoted specifically real estate. [6]

Ideogram graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept

An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.

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".


The Odelsrett is an ancient Scandinavian allodial title which has survived in Norway as odelsrett and existed until recent times in Sweden as bördsrätt.

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 4 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 city

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.

Æsir principal pantheon in Norse mythology

In Old Norse, ǫ́ss is a member of the principal pantheon in Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr. The second pantheon is known as the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage war against each other, which results in a unified pantheon.

Runes letters

Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter. The Scandinavian variants are also known as futhark or fuþark ; the Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc or fuþorc.

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 tribes 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, tools, weapons, and, of course, runestones, from the 2nd to the 8th centuries.

The rune is called Thurs in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called thorn, whence the name of the letter þ derived. It is transliterated as þ, and has the sound value of a voiceless dental fricative.

A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of Elder Futhark, Anglo-Frisian Futhorc and Younger Futhark.

The 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.

Tjurkö bracteates

The Tjurkö Bracteates, listed by Rundata as DR BR75 and DR BR76, are two bracteates found on Tjurkö, Eastern Hundred, Blekinge, Sweden, bearing Elder Futhark runic inscriptions in Proto-Norse.

Sjörup Runestone

The Sjörup Runestone is a runestone in Scania, Sweden, from approximately 1000 AD that is classified as being in runestone style RAK.

Runic transliteration and transcription are part of analysing a runic inscription which involves transliteration of the runes into Latin letters, transcription into a normalized spelling in the language of the inscription, and translation of the inscription into a modern language. In machine-processed text, there is a long-standing practice of formatting transliterations in boldface and transcriptions in Italic type, as the two forms of rendering a runic text have to be kept distinct.

Uppland Runic Inscription 1034 mask stone

Uppland Runic Inscription 1034 or U 1034 is the Rundata catalog number for a runic inscription on a runestone located at the Tensta Church, which is three kilometers northwest of Vattholma, Uppsala County, Sweden, and in the historic province of Uppland, that was carved in the late 11th or early 12th century. While the tradition of carving inscriptions into boulders began in the 4th century and lasted into the 12th century, most runestones date from the late Viking Age.

Södermanland Runic Inscription 84

Södermanland Runic Inscription 84 or Sö 84 is the Rundata designation for a runic inscription on a Viking Age memorial runestone located in Tumbo, Södermanland County, Sweden, and in the historic province of Södermanland.

Uppland Runic Inscription 448

This runic inscription, designated as U 448 in the Rundata catalog, is on a Viking Age memorial runestone located in Harg, which is about 4 kilometers north of Märsta, Stockholm County, Sweden, which was in the historic province of Uppland.

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.

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.