Orkney Rune Rede: The ninth full-day runic colloquium.


The Rune Rede in Kirkwall, Orkney, took place 21-23 May 2015. The Institute for Northern Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands, in collaboration with Uppsala Runic Forum, invited runologists and other interested researchers and postgraduate students to the a Full-Day Runic Colloquium, which, for the first time, was held in the Orkney Islands.

Memories from the Orkney Rune Rede, 21-23 May 2015

The Orkney Rune Rede ran over two and a half days, with 29 participants from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Gotland, Scotland, England, Germany, Australia and the USA.

Write-up in the local newspaper, The Orcadian

Abstracts of presentations

Participant list:

  • Sarah Jane Gibbon
  • Henrik Williams
  • Jana Krüger
  • Jan Ragnar Hagland
  • Jonas Nordby
  • Judith Jesch
  • Michael Lerche Nielsen
  • Aya Van Renterghem
  • Sonia Pereswetoff-Morath
  • Ragnhild Ljosland
  • Vivian Busch
  • Alexandra Sanmark
  • Ashley Husband Powton
  • Lynn Powell
  • John Powell
  • Jane-Anne Denison
  • Myrna Smith
  • Karen Lundholm
  • Bonita Sindelir
  • Michael Barnes
  • Mindy MacLeod
  • Laila Kitzler Ahfeldt
  • Magnus Källström
  • Randi Alice Nilsen
  • Jan Owe
  • Christopher Gee
  • Marcus Smith
  • Siobhan Cooke
  • Susan Hardy
  • Lorraine Littlejohn

conference attendees

We started our Rune Rede with an introduction to the conference programme and an overivew of the Orkney runic corpus, followed by a nice, informal get-together at Lucano Italian Restaurant in Kirkwall.

Book of runes

After a morning of presentations, we visited the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. The museum staff had kindly let us view some runic inscriptions from the store as well as the ordinary exhibition. We were delighted! In the photo: Henrik Williams, Jan Ragnar Hagland and Christopher Gee.

Examining runes

Student Susan Hardy was delighted to get a chance to inspect the Naversdale Rune Stone with Sarah Jane Gibbon from Orkney College's archaeology department!

Conference group

After a full day of presentations and discussion on the 22nd, we headed out in the field on 23rd May. Here we are at Maeshowe, where Michael Barnes treated us to a full tour of all 33 runic inscriptions.

Runes on stones

We debated whether the "Bjorn" runic inscription on the Ring of Brodgar is medieval or modern. In the photo: Michael Barnes. Photo by: Lynn Powell.

Visiting chamber

The runes in Unstan tomb, by Stenness Loch, are definitely modern, though! We went to see them nonetheless. The sun and the midges came out, too. Photo by Lynn Powell.


Examing runes

Some months earlier, while preparing for a publication on the archaeological excavations at the Earl's Bu site in Orphir, Colleen Batey had spotted some vertical marks on a stone built into the wall of an outbuilding. The Rune Rede delegates went to great lengths to create the right light conditions to find out whether the lines are runes or not. Conclusion: Some thought it might be "something", others thought not runes, but all agreed it would be impossible to read. Good fun, though! Photo by Lynn Powell.

Below is the call for papers and the presentation abstracts.

Call for papers

Dates: 21 - 23 May 2015

Booking: Whether you are speaking at the Rune Rede, or just wish to attend as a non-speaking delegate, please take a moment to fill in the booking form.

Standing stones at Stenness

The Institute for Northern Studies and Uppsala Runic Forum are delighted to announce this call for papers for the first Rune Rede (Full-Day Runic Colloquium) in the Orkney Islands. We would especially like to invite papers discussing runic inscriptions from Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness, with a particular focus on those which have been found in Orkney since 2000 (OR 20 Breckness stone, Brough of Deerness pendant, Quay lead fragment, Naversdale stone – see links below). However, contributions on related topics are also welcome, such as for example new thoughts on any of the runic inscriptions from the North Atlantic isles or Norse Britain or Ireland, considerations on the existence and extent of a runic literacy in Orkney and Shetland, or Victorian and modern responses to the runes in Maeshowe and elsewhere.

Maeshowe runes

The Rune Rede will start in the late afternoon of Thursday the 21/5, with a welcome to Orkney at the Institute for Northern Studies in Kirkwall. Papers will be presented on Friday the 22/5, while on Saturday the 23/5 there is an optional post-colloquium bus tour, including a visit to see the runic assemblage in Maeshowe chambered tomb and other places of interest.

As this is an event in the Uppsala Runic Forum series, we are delighted to say that Kungliga Humanistiska Vetenskaps-samfundet is sponsoring the Orkney Rune Rede. The event is therefore free of charge.

OR20 Breckness stone

map showing find spots for Orkney runic inscriptions, OR 1- 23 + OR Barnes 1-33

Speakers and papers

Follow the links to see individual abstracts, or Abstracts of presentations.

Aya Van Renterghem: “To Twig or not to Twig: Secret Runes in the British Isles”

Henrik Williams: “Or Barnes10 Þorný sarð: Who did what to whom?”

Jan Ragnar Hagland: “The Corpus of Runic Inscriptions from Orkney and Shetland and the Notion of ‘Runic Literacy’.”

Jay Johnston: “Religion and Runology: How Religious Concepts Impacted Upon Antiquarian Interpretations of the Maeshowe Inscriptions”

Jonas Nordby: “A prayer or what?” (N 131 M Nore kirke)

Judith Jesch: “Vikings in Maeshowe. Some thoughts on Or Barnes 1 M.”

Michael Lerche Nielsen: “"A good word never broke a tooth”. The significance of the Brough of Birsay amulet, OR 11”

Ragnhild Ljosland: “The 12th century intruders’ attitude to Maeshowe”

Sarah Jane Gibbon: “'The Naversdale Runestone: Pater Noster to Pigs Nose'?”

Sonia Pereswetoff-Morath: “The Runic Inscription on the Pendant from the Brough of Deerness: Is it Lexical or not?”

Vivian Busch and Jana Kr?ger: “Or Barnes20: A metrical inscription?”


Inside Maeshowe Rebecca Marr