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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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  • Description

    Stone trial piece of slate, decorated with carving in Irish Urnes Style on both sides.

    Graham-Campbell 1980
    Sub-rectangular slate 'trial-piece', damaged around its edges; it is ornamented with carvings of animals and interlace on both sides, in the same manner. Finished and roughly sketched panels of ribbon-interlace of varying complexity surround a large pear-shaped field containing an animal with a coiled body. The head has open jaws with scrolled ends, a pear-shaped eye, and an elongated lappet which interlaces with the body. The stubby fore-legs occupy the pointed end of the field; the hindquarters are scrolled with long legs which interlace with the body, as does the tail. Both the head-lappet and the tail have foliate terminals.


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 11thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 89 millimetres
    • Width: 77 millimetres
    • Depth: 5 millimetres
    • Weight: 76 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Graham-Campbell 1980
    Found about 1830 during excavation for a public work, probably the canal. The animal, with its coiled body (cp. Stockholm: Statens Historiska Museum SHM 11521), is in the native Irish tradition in detail but has been influenced by the Urnes style which enjoyed considerable popularity in Ireland (see Dublin (National Museum of Ireland): P.1053 and 1919:1; Boher Church, Co. Offaly (Gabled Reliquary)). Although such a mixed Irish/Scandinavian style will have developed in the Scandinavian towns in Ireland - most especially in Dublin (cp. Dublin (National Museum of Ireland): E122:9270 and 6543, E122:6567 and E43:2327, E71:708 and 5706, E122:8760) - this slate 'trial-piece' from Co. Clare serves to illustrate its spread throughout the country in the Late Viking Period.

    Literature: 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries London', iv (1867-73), 171; 'British Museum Guide to the Anglo-Saxon Antiquities' (1923), 140; Raftery (ed.) 1941 from Mahr, A. and Raftery, J. (eds) (1932-41): 'Christian Art in Ancient Ireland', II, 151, pl. 105,4a-b.


  • Bibliography

    • Marzinzik 2013 262-263 bibliographic details
    • Graham-Campbell 1980 Cat. No. 478 bibliographic details
    • Humphrey 1997 Table 1, Lab No 6912-1-W (unpublished scientific report) bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    2014-2015 Jul-Jan, Berlin, Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Vikings
    2014 6 Mar-22 Jun, London, British Museum, Viking: Life and Legend
    2013 21 Jun-30 Nov, Denmark, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, Viking
    1980 4 Oct-1981 4 Jan, USA, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Vikings
    1980 19 Feb-20 July, London, BM, The Vikings

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    found 1830 circa

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: MCS17020

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