A unique find
A treasure seeker from Tønsberg finds something special from the Middle Ages.
Paul Fadum from Tønsberg is constantly looking for little treasures with his metal detector.
Together with his father-in-law, he hunts for traces of the past and has found both coins and keys, but last week he made his most special find to date – a small lead disc with a runic inscription from the Middle Ages.
“I was really looking for coins from 1700-1800’s, but this is also exciting,” he says.
To the untrained eye it looks like a small stone, but when Paul Fadum’s metal detector began to emit sounds, he realized that it must be a small lead disc.
“It did not look like anything special, but when I got home I discovered that there were carved runes on it,” says Fadum, who took it to the county archaeologist for a detailed investigation.
The lead plates were found before the weekend and Cecilia Gustavsen, an archaeologist at Slottsfjell Museum and project manager for a rune exhibition at the museum, is very excited about the discovery.
“It’s a bit special that there was a rune find in Tønsberg now, when we have a rune exhibition at the museum,” she says, explaining that this is a very rare find.
“There have only been 37 runic finds in Tønsberg formerly, and only one in lead, so this is particularly special on a national basis as well,” says Gustavsen, explaining that in Bergen, where about 500 rune finds have been made, only three have been in lead.
In Oslo, which is also a medieval town, there have not been any found.
Usually, the runes from the Middle Ages are carved in wood or bone. Overall, only about 30 lead plates with runic inscriptions have been found in Norway.
Lead plates that are two-three centimeters wide in circumference were used as amulets. They could be folded in order to be more easily sewn into clothes or be carried in a purse.
“It looks as if it says ‘amen’ on this lead, so it is probably the inscription of a small prayer, but surely we will not know until we get it checked at the Museum of Cultural History,” says Gustavsen.
The inscriptions on such lead plates are often religious texts. Amulets were meant to protect the wearer against illness, accidents and bad events. The religious power of the word AGLA (an acronym from the Hebrew) occur frequently. Common texts are “Pater Noster” (Our Father) and “Ave Maria.”
“It wasn’t just anybody who could [read and carve] runes, so this is surely carved by a learned person,” says Gustavsen.
The lead plate was found in a field in Tønsberg. Jens Rytter with the State Antiquarian believes that many artifacts originally from Tønsberg city center were dumped in the area by accident.
“This is an unusual finding in this area, so the lead plate has probably been moved with the soil that has been excavated in Tønsberg sometime after the 1860s,” says Rytter.
In 1860, they began to dig out basements in the cities and the dirt that was excavated in Tønsberg was dumped outside the city.
“It is amazing that the finder understood that this was unique, says Rytter and praises Fadum, who turned in the lead plate.
“It could as soon have been lost to a less observant finder,” he says.
The lead plate, which is probably from 1100-1300, together with other finds from the area, have been sent to the Museum of Cultural History for preservation.
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