A letter from the past

22. May 2015 | The Viking Museum Ladby

A few weeks ago, the museum got another large portion of finds from the very dedicated metal detector enthusiasts who help the museum to map out the prehistory of northeast Funen. Over the last few years, metal detector users have put in a huge amount of hard work and brought thousands of finds to light - finds that have given us a whole new and much more detailed picture of our local prehistory. Jewellery, weights, coins, scrap metal, spindle whorls, plumb bobs, etc. tell about where people lived - and dropped things - where and how they did their work and where and how they buried their valuables.

The Find of the Month, made by Glenn Abrahamsen on Schelenborg Manor’s property, belongs to the category of objects that can give the most intimate insight into what someone thought and believed. The little lead plate, only 1.9 x 1.9 cm (3/4 x 3/4”) doesn’t look like much at first. But when you take a better look, small closely-written runes appear on the whole plate, only 2-3 mm (0.07 - 0.11”) high. The lead plate is folded once in the middle, so we can only see one side of the almost 4 cm (1 1/2 “) long plate at this time. What we have here is a lead amulet from the Middle Ages, which must have protected its owner and the people closest to him or her, against all kinds of illnesses and accidents.

In Denmark, we know of about 70 lead amulets, but only a handful have been found on Funen, so far. Most of the legible amulets are written in Latin but using runes, which lived alongside Roman letters for several hundred years. Some of the amulets don’t spell out anything but gibberish, perhaps “written” by fraudulent scribes, others have Bible verses on them, magic formulas or the summoning of certain demons or elves. The idea was, that if you summoned evil - illness or demons - and fixed their names in writing, it was also easier to drive them away.

The lead amulet from Schelenborg will be sent to the conservator and from there on to be evaluated for a finder’s fee. With a little luck, the conservator will be able to unfold it, so rune experts can read the inscription on both sides. Perhaps they can reveal what or whom the amulet’s owner wanted protection from.


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