WAW-4CA072: Early Medieval runic inscription.

Rights Holder: Birmingham Museums Trust
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Rights Holder: Birmingham Museums Trust
CC License:

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Unique ID: WAW-4CA072

Object type certainty: Possibly
Workflow status: Published Find published

A cast copper alloy fragment which is sub-square in plan. The two horizontal edges are the original edges and are slightly bevelled in profile. The two vertical edges have been cut in antiquity, as the patina continues oover the edges. One corner of the object is slightly bent, but this is probably due to damage rather than intention.

There are runic inscriptions on both faces. Those on the outward face are well defined and well formed with serif feet. Barry Ager (British Museum) comments 'The inscription is incomplete, unfortunately, since at the left-hand end the strip has been cut vertically through the upright of a missing letter (perhaps E, I, M, H, or D) and there seem likely to have been other letters at this end, too. The last three of the four remaining runes have all been joined together and what is left of the inscription appears to read '(...)ADMO (...).'

There are also runes on the reverse, but these are very faint and crudely incised but Barry Ager suggests they appear to read 'RLD'.

The surface of the object has a delicate light blue/green patina. It measures 17.31mm long, 14.65mm wide, 0.69mm thick and weighs 1.21g. XRF confirmed the material is copper alloy.

Probably dates to the later Early Medieval period (based on the dating of Scandinavian material - refer to Notes).


Professor Hines (University of Cardiff) has kindly commented on this artefact and its inscription 'It's a remarkably nicely formed inscription on the one side, with a "triple bind-rune" (three letters in a sort of joined-up writing!) that is at least extremely rare, possibly unique.

Barry's reading of the clearer side is quite right: "a" then "dmo" joined together. We could rule out several possibilities for the truncated rune on the far left-hand side but there would be a good number remaining. I wouldn't immediately suggest an interpretation, though it would be quite realistic for that to be part of an Old English personal name.

I think the second side is probably "red" rather than rld ... this is on the basis of a faint second by-stave on the middle rune, that could create another bind-rune of e+d. But it certainly could be the letter "l". I'd need to see it under a microscope myself to try to sort that out, but it wouldn't necessarily be completely conclusive even so.'

Professor Knirk (University of Oslo) has kindly commented on this artefact and its inscription; 'Concerning the inscription on the side with strong runes: It does read ?admo, and there probably was something before the remains of the first rune, which is in the break at the left edge. The remains of the first rune,
as Bary Ager wrote, could be e, i, m, h or d. But I am fairly sure the remains should be read as an uncertain m. Thus my reading is (--m)admo(--), where parentheses indicate uncertainty. As a matter of fact, I am fairly sure that there was an m-rune before the first certain rune, so the uncertainty is actually minimal. I see, in the stave at the edge, knife cuts near the top of the stave and 1/3 or the way down; this corresponds exactly to the cuts where the crossing lines of the clear m-rune (on the left side) meet the last stave in the inscription.

Whether anything has followed the last rune, is a question. There seems to be a slightly larger empty space after the last rune; although this might indicate that the inscription ended here, I feel the material is not sufficient to make that statement. I would actually assume that the inscription
continued. Thus I have (--) at both ends of the inscription.

Otherwise I would assume that the language was Latin, not "presumably Anglo-Saxon". In Scandinavia, in Christian times (after 1000/1050), inscriptions on metal plates are almost always religious texts in Latin or garbled Latin. My reaction to "admo" was the same; I can think of parts of
many Latin words that this could represent. The Scandinavian parallels would also lead me to assume that this was a Christian amulet.

Concerning the other side: rld seems to be the reading, although the branch on the l appears to have a nick at the end. Only a new inspection of the object itself would reveal if this is actually to be read as an e-rune (the runic form resembles M; the e would then form a bind-rune with the
following d) or as an a (thus with a lower branch which is difficult or impossible to see on the picture; like the a-rune on the other side). My reading then would be r(l)d, or probably (--)r(l)d(--), with an uncertain l-rune in the middle and possibilities that the inscription continued at both
ends. A vowel instead of an l-rune would give us good linguistic possibilities, but the consonant cluster (rld), should that be confirmed, could represent the end of one word and the beginning of another. Or the whole thing could be "nonsense" (something we cannot grasp the meaning of; the runes are cut very lightly, perhaps only doodling).

My contribution would thus be:
1. Uncertain m as the rune at the beginning of the strongly cut inscription.
2. Maybe more likely Latin language than Anglo-Saxon in those runes.
3. The object: perhaps a Christian amulet.
4. Perhaps uncertain l-rune on the other side (should be checked again; I could not make up my mind simply from the picture I received).

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: National importance

Class: Christian

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Date from: Circa AD 850
Date to: Circa AD 1066

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 17.31 mm
Width: 14.65 mm
Thickness: 0.69 mm
Weight: 1.21 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 19th April 2006

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Angie Bolton
Identified by: Mr Barry Ager
Secondary identifier: Ms Angie Bolton

Other reference numbers

Other reference: Finders reference: 4MARKS

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Uncertain

Spatial metadata

Region: West Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Warwickshire (County)
District: Stratford-on-Avon (District)
Parish or ward: Billesley (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SP1456
Four figure Latitude: 52.202054
Four figure longitude: -1.796569
1:25K map: SP1456
1:10K map: SP15NW
Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

References cited

No references cited so far.

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1 comment

  • Mark Pugh wrote @ 21:47:49 on the 7th May 2011.

    I am the original finder who handed the item into Angie Bolton as the FLO for the PAS in this area. This represents only a small part of the paperwork I have had back for this find, the level of expertise and depth of study has astonished me. This is the best type of resource for all detectorists to use, it has helped the specialists with another "little piece of the jigsaw" to enlarge their understanding of this forgotten time, and given me much more information than I could ever get on a find. When I found it, I GPS'd the location and called it "4marks"; any other details I later found out (initial translation) came from publishing in "The Searcher". But the help given by the PAS was fantastic and still I'm getting further information.

Audit data

Recording Institution: WAW
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 7 years ago

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