Ribe skull fragment

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The Ribe skull fragment is a section of human skull bone inscribed with runes and unearthed in 1973 in an archaeological excavation at Ribe, Denmark. It dates to circa 725 CE.[1]


The skull fragment is approximately 6 x 8.5 cm in size and has been taken from the top of a cranium.[2] It has a hole bored in it and it is inscribed with transitional younger futhark runes. The runic inscription retains two characters from the elder futhark, ᚺ and ᛗ.

  • ᚢᛚᚠᚢᛦᚼᚢᚴᚢᚦᛁᚾᚼᚢᚴᚺᚢᛏᛁᚢᛦ ᚺᛁᚼᛚᛒᛒᚢᚱᛁᛁᛋᚢᛁᚦᛦ ᚦᚼᛁᛗᚼᚢᛁᚼᚱᚴᛁᚼᚢᚴᛏᚢᛁᚱᚴᚢᚾᛁᚾ ᛒᚢᚢᚱ

These transliterate as:

  • ulfuRAukuþinAukHutiuR HiAlbburiisuiþR þAimAuiArkiAuktuirkunin buur


A possible interpretation of the inscription is:

  • Ulfr auk Ōðinn auk Hō-tiur. Hjalp buri es viðr þæima værki. Auk dverg unninn. Bōurr.
  • Ulfr and Odin and High-tiur. Buri is help against this pain. And the dwarf (is) overcome. Bóurr.[3]

Where "Ulfr" may refer to the wolf Fenrir, "Odin" to the god Odin, "High-tiur" to the god Týr and "Buri" to the god Búri. It has been suggested that the existence of a hole in the fragment may indicate its use as an amulet.[4] However, there is a general lack of wear of the type that would be expected if it had been used in this way.[3]


  1. ^ Stoklund, Marie (1996), ""The Ribe cranium inscription and the Scandinavian transition to the younger reduced futhark.", Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, 45, pp. 199–209, retrieved July 15, 2019
  2. ^ Macleod, Mindy; Mees, Bernard (2006), Runic Amulets and Magic Objects, Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, ISBN 1843832054
  3. ^ a b Schulte, Michael (2006), "The transformation of the older fuþark: Number magic, runographic or linguistic principles?", Arkiv för nordisk filologi, 121, pp. 41–74, retrieved July 15, 2019
  4. ^ "Odin's Skull: A Macabre Amulet from Denmark", Irish Archaeology, September 17, 2015, retrieved July 15, 2019