We found some runes by the railway….

LiveScience reports on Norwegian railway construction workers who found a whetstone carved with a (relatively rare) runic inscription:

Runic writing was used in Norway and other parts of Northern Europe during the Middle Ages, which lasted between roughly 500-1450. However, artifacts containing runes are rare, and archaeologists debate the number of people who could write them, the researchers said.

“On the whetstone, the runes ‘æ, r, k, n, a’ appear. But it is not easy to tell what they mean,” archaeologists with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) said in a statement. The runes could be an attempt to spell a person’s name, or they could spell the word “scared,” “ugly” or “pain,” the archaeologists said in the statement.

The person who wrote these runes was probably not a trained rune carver and was likely learning to spell in runic, Karen Holmqvist, a fellow at NIKU who specializes in the study of runes, said in the statement, noting that the quality of runic writing on the stone is poor.

“The findings contribute to the perception that the art of runic writing was relatively widespread in medieval Norway. But many writers would probably find themselves [with a level of knowledge] where they knew about writing, but were not literate,” the archaeologists said in the statement.

There’s more at the archaeologists’ blog. In Norwegian, but, you know, the rune pictures are pretty cool.