In the city of Trondheim, located in northwest Norway, archaeologists have discovered a rare artifact – a round figure made of soapstone and covered with runic inscriptions. Experts believe that it was a figure from an ancient board game. They found it by chance – the workers were preparing to repair the sewage system of the city of Trondheim, archaeologists were invited to the place of work to conduct an examination.
Game figurine with runic inscription
The figurine was made of soapstone and covered with runic text. At first, archaeologists mistook the patterns on its surface for carvings – decorations with plant motifs. However, more detailed analysis showed that the patterns are actually runic inscriptions. Archaeologists say that this inscription is “a bit strange, but there is no doubt that they are runes.
“The microscope showed that there are clearly drawn guiding lines on the stone,” says runeologist Karen Langsholt Holmquist. – So there is no doubt that the maker of the runes planned well for the inscription to match the round shape of the piece of this stone.”
Literally the runes have been translated as the word combination “siggsifr” (siggsifr). Experts say that a similar phrase is often found in runic inscriptions on small objects. The word “Sig” in Norse means “struggle” and is a prefix for both male and female names, such as Sigurd, Sigbjorn, Siegfried or Sigrid. The letter “p” at the end indicates that it is a male name.
The word “Sifr,” as scholars explain, is a poetic metaphor meaning “brother.” Therefore, it is possible that the inscription meant “brother in arms.” It could be the name of the person to whom the figurine or the entire game belonged, or the name of the person who engraved the inscription. However, scholars do not rule out that the text could have been an indirect reference to the figure itself, defining its purpose. For example, it could be the equivalent of a knight or an elephant in chess.
Playing figurine from ancient Norway
According to the site of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage (NIKU), this is only the second playful figure with runic inscriptions ever found in Norway. The first was found in 2011 in Oslo. It was made of bone and had runic inscriptions, which indicated that it was a figurine from an ancient board game.
Board games were popular in ancient Norway, and were probably used in various ceremonies and festivals. However, since the ancient Norwegians left no written sources about their games, we can only speculate what games they played and how they were arranged. A game figurine with runic inscription may give us more information about these games and how they were played.
Interest in ancient games
Interest in ancient games has been growing lately. Archaeologists recently discovered an ancient game that was played in ancient Rome. The game was called “Ludus Latrunculorum” and was similar to chess. It was popular in Rome for several centuries and then disappeared.
“Games are part of culture, and they can tell us a lot about the lives and customs of ancient peoples,” said Michael Lewis, professor of archaeology at the University of Liverpool. “Some games may have had religious or magical significance, others were simply entertainment. But they all reflect the cultural values and traditions of the time.”