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Iona (SC 14)

By far the most complete inscription in the Scottish corpus, and possibly the most visually impressive, the Iona cross slab was found close to Reilig Odráin, the island's principle burial ground. It is a fragment (a little under half, split diagonally lengthways) of a slab of Torridonian flagstone which, when complete would have measured 1.11m by 0.7m. The decorative cross which dominates the face is in fact a crude copy of another cross, also found in the cemetery. It consists of an endless double-ribbon cross interlaced with a square ring at the centre, and knotted triquetra terminals interlaced with figure-of-eight knots. The inscription, in short-twig runes, read from left to right, runs along the border of the major side, and appears to be contemporaneous with the decoration.


Kali Ölvissonr lagði stein þensi yfir Fogl, bróður sinn

'Kali Ölvissonr laid this stone over Fogl, his brother'

The corner of the stone has broken off, but there was space for what must have been the final word, sin, sinn. Once again, this is an overlayed grave-marker, and although the wording of the inscription is different from Thurso I (SC 11), the standard 11th century memorial formula is still broadly applied, with the exception that the verb 'laid' and preposition 'over' are substituted for the more usual 'raised'. The inscription's spelling stan for the more usual stain is common in Sweden, but less so in Denmark and Norway, but both this and the unorthodox spelling laþi (for lahþi) are easily explained away as mistakes on the part of the carver. The spelling of the demonstrative pronoun, þinsi, is also unusual in a West-Norse context. However, such parallels as do exist (German II, on Man, and the Vang and Kuli stones, Norway) probably post-date 1000. This form is more common in 10th century Denmark, possibly implying a Danish connection rather than an unorthodox Norwegian spelling. The spelling conventions suggest a date of the late 10th or early 11th century. The use of u for /o/ dates the stone to later than the Manx material, but earlier than Cunningsburgh III (SH 4), with which it shares the reversed b-rune). Based on this, and the similarities of the cross design to stones from Papil, Shetland (the same island as SH 5), Glendalough, South Dublin, and the Manx series, the slab is most likely to date to the 10th or early 11th centuries.

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