Saturday, October 29, 2016

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Vang Stone

Image from Wikipedia

The Vang Stone is a Runestone located in the central part of southern Norway. Although its runic inscription follows a fairly standard wording someone has erected the stone in honor or memory of someone else – I am not sure if the stone was erected for the carvers' nephew or cousin.  In my research, I found both. The actual wording is interpreted as:  Gasa's sons erected (cut or carved) this stone in memory of Gunnar, their nephew/cousin.  But, this is only one aspect of the Vang Stone.

Vang Stone inscription
Of the roughly 3,000 Runestones in Scandinavia, Sweden hosts the vast majority of them.  There are none in Iceland, around 250 in Denmark, and Norway comes in with 50. Of course, other areas of the world also tout a runestone or runic carving (for example, Italy has the Pireaus Lion, there are some in the UK, including the Manx Crosses on the Isle of Man, even Greenland has one.)  So, this special stone is one of Norway's 50 and what makes it interesting is that the Vang Stone has some really fascinating features all based on location.

Changing location.  The Vang Stone was erected right around the time of the conversion to Christianity in Scandinavia (around the year 1000) and located originally near a stave church; and there it sat for more than 800 years.  When the stave church was taken apart and reassembled in Germany in 1844, the Vang Stone was also moved to the Vang Church and it still resides there.

Geographic location. On a larger scale, the Vang Stone lies just to the north of the Ringerike District of Norway, the area which is responsible for the ornate carving style on the Vang Stone's face, called the Ringerike style.  The design is topped off by a stylized lion with two small shells at the bottom.  In between are gently-curved swirls that crisscross in the middle. The top part of the crisscross appears a bit more symmetrical, though not entirely, than the lower portion.

Inscription location.  On a much smaller scale, the stone itself is different from most other stones, because its runic engraving runs along the side of the stone.  It is not above, below or integrated into the picture and design on the stone's face.  I tried to highlight (in the image to the left) the cut Runes that run along right side of the stone as you look at its face, but if you want a better view, I did find a reasonable image online. (Click to see the Vang Stone image.)  The location of the Runes on the stone is quite intriguing to me.  I can't help but wonder if carving them on the side was an intentional piece of the stone design so as not to take away from the carving on the front or if Gasa's sons simply forgot to leave space, so had no choice but to cut the Runes along the stone's side.

The Vang Stone is a good example of the importance of location, location, location.

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