artikel 59

Searching for evidence of early information design

More than one thousand years ago Harold Bluetooth, the king of Denmark, ordered a huge memorial boulder. “The large Jelling stone” is probably the oldest example in Scandinavia of an official document that is the result of conscious work to mediate messages using combinations of words, images and form. This early work is in good concert with the main principles of contemporary information design.

Information design

Design is the identifying of a problem and the intellectual creative effort of an originator, manifesting itself in drawings or plans that include schemes and specifications to solve the problem. The term design, or final design, also represents the outcomes of each specific design process, such as products, services, processes, and systems (Pettersson, 2010:52).
   Information design, ID, comprises analysis, planning, presentation and understanding of a message – its content, language and form. Regardless of the selected medium, a well designed information set, with its message, will satisfy aesthetic, economic, ergonomic, as well as receiver and subject matter requirements (Pettersson, 2002:119). The term message is valid for all media. The main goal in information design is clarity of communication. The main objective is to provide information materials, including the intended messages, needed by the receivers in order to perform specific tasks.
   Producers of information and learning materials can facilitate communication, and the learning processes of the receivers. Complicated language, in both texts and images, will impair the understanding of the message. Every information designer needs to have theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills. A “good” information material makes everyday life easier for people, and it grants good credibility to the senders or sources.
   Information design of today is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, and worldwide consideration. Where are the roots of information design? Where are the early examples of artefacts where the creators used combined and effective verbal and visual messages? Who was the first information designer?

Rune stones

In Scandinavia our earliest known written (or carved) characters are called runes. The earliest runic inscription in Sweden is dated to around AD 200 (Zachrisson, 1999:338). This inscription is on the tip of a spear, found in the province of Gotland.
   Runes and runic inscriptions were used in the Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet, with its letters. There are many theories regarding runes and rune inscriptions. The rune alphabets were probably based on and inspired by some alphabets that were used in the antique cultures at the Mediterranean Sea where Germanic people often served in the Roman army. In Scandinavia the Latin alphabet was adopted around AD 1000–1200. However, in many places runes were used in rural Sweden until the early 20th century. They are still used for decoration purposes.
   The runes were designed to be cut in items made of wood. However, such items are rarely preserved and not present in archaeological finds. Runic inscriptions are preserved on flat, raised stones, but also on boulders, on bedrock, and on items like spears and buckles. These different objects are the oldest preserved original documents in Sweden. Many still carry messages their from people who lived more than one thousand years ago.
   There are several runic alphabets, or Futharks. All Germanic people used the Elder Futhark. There are a little more than 300 inscriptions from the southern parts of Scandinavia.
   During 500–800 the language changed noticeable AD in Scandinavia. The Old Norse became a common northern language with shorter words and changed vowels. The Younger Futhark (800–1100) contains 16 runes. Most of the preserved runic inscriptions belong to this category. Two important variants are called Danish runes (long-branch runes), and Swedish-Norwegian runes (short-branch runes or Rök runes). The Danish runes are well adjusted for rune stones. A third variant is called Hälsinge runes (stave less runes).
   Most rune stones are located in Scandinavia. Denmark has 250 rune stones, Norway has 50, while there are more than 2 500 in Sweden alone. There are also rune stones in other parts of the world as the tradition of raising rune stones followed the Norsemen wherever they went. Runic inscriptions still convey messages to us from people living during the period 400–1100. Most of the rune stones were carved and erected during the last century of the Viking Age. Common purposes of rune stones were to mark territory, to explain inheritance, to boast about constructions, to tell of important events. Many of the rune stones were probably erected as memorial stones to bring glory to deceased men. Often the text tells us that the deceased had made extensive travels far away. Balle, Fot and Visäte are examples of signatures made by the rune-masters.
   Rune stones were often put close to bridges, on grave fields, at assembly and meeting-places, and alongside roads where people easily could see them. Many rune stones still remain in their original places. Some rune stones have been inserted as construction material and were built into the walls of medieval churches, some were put in cemeteries, and some have been moved to museums. All rune stones have a runic inscription, a short text. However, a few rune stones also have simple images.

Image Stones

An image stone, also called picture stone or figure stone is a raised ornate slab of stone, usually limestone. All image stones have carved and painted visual stories. However, a few image stones also have runic inscriptions.
   So far more than 400 image stones are known. Motifs often tell stories from the Nordic mythology. Most of these are placed in the province of Gotland. However, some image stones rest in the provinces around Lake Mälaren. The image stones from Gotland belong to the most internationally known archaeological finds from Sweden.
   There are image stones from AD 400 until the 12th century. People erected monumental image stones in Gotland during three periods with great prosperity. These periods lasted AD 400–600, 700–800, and 1000–1100 (Burenhult, 1999:323). People used smaller stones during the intervening periods. During the 11th century the rune stones replaced the image stones. Then the visual stories disappear. In Gotland many of the rune stones have kept the same shape as image stones.
   An important function for image stones was to function as noticeable memories in honour of men who had made important contributions to society. Women usually got smaller coffins with decorated flat slabs of stone. Another function for early image stones was probably related to religious ceremonies before Christianity.
   The dating of image stones is based on studies of their outer shapes, their ornamentations, patterns and symbols framing the visual stories. It may also be possible to compare with datable finds in graves. Lacking textual explanations, the images are consequently difficult to interpret. Often iconographic interpretations are based on images that have been “colour corrected” during the 1940s. However, modern studies using 3D scanning demonstrate that several of the “colour corrections” were wrong. Using this method it is possible to study the use of possible templates, handicraft traditions, cutting techniques, and individual cutting tracks.

This illustration shows axe egged image stones, dwarf stones, mushroom shaped image stones and decorated flat slabs for coffins. (After Nylén, 1978.)

Axe egged image stones were common 400–600. These stones have a straight form. The upper part is shaped like the edge of an axe. The ornamentations usually include circular forms, often a bow, a spiral or a whirl wheel in an upper, dominating field. A typical ornament is a wheel with many bent spokes. These figures may be symbols for the sun. It is not known how long the sun was an important part of the Old Norse religion. The motifs may also include images of manned ships without sails, as well as sketch-like animals and humans, and decorations along the borders of the stones. Sometimes there are rune inscriptions. However, these are usually impossible to interpret. The axe egged image stones were often raised as markers close to graves within grave fields.
   Mushroom shaped image stones were common 700–1100. These stones are tall with necks and tall bow-shaped profiles. The rich visual stories include several dramatic scenes from the Nordic mythology. A common scene is a man, riding a horse, welcomed by a woman holding a drinking-vessel. It is Odin and his horse Sleipner entering Valhalla. Traditionally the Icelandic sagas have been the starting point for the interpretation of the motifs. Often the stories behind the scenes have not survived in written form.
   Mushroom shaped image stones were often raised and placed in groups as visible monuments close to boundaries, bridges, at meeting-places, religious places, and roads where people easily could see them. These stones marked geographic as well as symbolic boundaries.
   Some image stones tell us about everyday life in prehistoric times. These images demonstrate construction of buildings and provide detailed information on arms, carriages, clothes, domestic animals, horses, homes, riders, and ships with sails, sleighs and wagons. Some women have long plaited hair and men have trimmed beards and helmets without any horns. Thus they differ from common opinions about what the Vikings looked like. Many images show scenes with battles and sacrifices. The images were painted in many and varied colours. At the end of the Germanic Iron Age and at the beginning of the Middle Ages people used to dye their clothes, various objects and also inscriptions on rune stones Bägerfeldt, 2004:76, 117).
   Younger image stones have a stylized Christian cross in an upper, dominating field. Some rune stones from the same period have similar crosses. Furthermore they have dragon-coils in rune stone manner.
   Only a few image stones have been found in their original places. Many image stones have been moved to new places and reused during historic time. Some stones were used as building material in bridges, in pre-historic graves, in floors and walls in churches, and even in open fireplaces. Other stones have been used in later graves. Most of the image stones remain in Gotland. However, some have been moved from the island. Today there are some image stones in major museums.

Verbal and visual messages

Rune stones frequently have rich ornamentation. A few rune stones also have images, but yet they are mainly verbal documents. Younger rune stones often have a stylized Christian cross together with a short Christian prayer completing the text. Sometimes image stones have rune inscriptions. However, it is often impossible to interpret these characters. Picture stones are mainly visual documents. It may be hard to distinguish between rune stones with rich ornamentation and image stones with runes.
   Below are four examples of early verbal and visual messages. In three cases runes and images are engraved and cut in large stones. In one case the medium is a flat rock.

Tjängvidestenen An image stone from Tjängvide, in Alskog parish in Gotland, is dated to 700–800 (Lindqvist, 1941:120f). The 174 cm high slab of limestone was used as building material and built into a cellar. It was discovered in 1844 on the farm of Tjängvide. The front of the stone has Swedish-Norwegian runes and is decorated with a number of figures in low relief, in one upper and in one lower field. The two fields are separated by a braided pattern like wickerwork. The back of the stone has neither figures nor runes.


The image stone Alskog Tjängvide I from Gotland is now on display at National Historical Museum in Stockholm. The close-ups show Odin riding his horse Sleipner, and some runes to the right of the sail.

In the upper field of the stone there is a small man riding a big horse with eight legs. A woman offers the man a drinking-vessel and the keys to the house. Walhalla is seen above the woman. Here blessed warriors enjoy the delights of battle. A spear has hit one man, and another man is lying dead on the ground. But in a moment both men will be able to raise totally unharmed. The rider is usually interpreted as Odin with his horse Sleipnir. The horse Sleipnir has eight legs to be able to gallop faster than the wind, on the ground, in the air and at sea. The woman in the image is interpreted as a Valkyrie. There are also alternative interpretations of the imagery.
   The lower part of the stone is almost completely filled with the image of a Viking dragon longship with high stem and high sternpost. The sail is almost as wide as the ship is long.
   The Tjängvide rune stone has two separate runic inscriptions. Eight partly preserved runes are found to the far left in the upper field. They may be there just for decorative purposes (Jansson and Wessén, 1962:195). A 60 cm long band with runes is located to the right of the sail in the lower field. This inscription tells that the stone was erected for the warrior Hjorulf, who died during a Viking raid:

“... raised the stone in memory of Hjorulf, his brother ...”

The name Hjorulf in the text translates as “sword wolf.” Today it is not possible to understand if there are any clear connections between the different messages conveyed by words and by images on the Tjängvide rune stone, now on display at National Historical Museum in Stockholm. Anyhow it would be very hard to prove any clear connection since the inscription is very hard to interpret. The Sparlösa rune stone We only have defective knowledge about why this 177 cm high stone of gneiss was raised about 800. This rune stone has been badly treated. It was discovered in 1669. At that time it was built into the south presbytery wall of a medieval church in Sparlösa, in the province of Västergötland (Jungner, 1938:194). Some years later, 1684, the church burnt. The rune stone was removed when the church was restored. It was divided in two parts that were built into the wall again. In 1937 these parts were removed from the wall and the rune stone was restored and preserved. Since 1982 the Sparlösa stone is kept in a special building close to the new church.
   The Sparlösa rune stone has three sides with inscribed runes as well as images (A, B and C). In addition to the old inscription there is also a younger part from the 11th century. The fourth side (D) has only images.

The four sides of the 177 cm Sparlösa stone. Photo: Sven Rosborn, Foteviken.

The rune inscription consists of about 270 runes. After the careless handling it is next to impossible to interpret. However, some have tried. Below is a translation to English based on a translation to modern Swedish (Foteviken, 2010.):

A: “Öjuls, the son of Eric, gave, (as well) gave Alrik”.

B: “... gave ... in return. When (?) was seated in Upsal (?), the father who ... nights and days. Alrik lu(bi)r did not fear (?) Öjuls ...”

C: “... that Sigmar (Segerfrejdad?) is called (may be called) the son of Erik ... enormous fight (?) For Öjul (the stone is raised?) and interpret the runes there, those derived from the gods, as Alrik inscribed”

The coherence in the text is broken in several places. Furthermore the language itself offers several possibilities for interpretation of the content of the message. Alrik, who inscribed the runes, identifies them as: “those derived from the gods.” The word Upsal is mentioned in the text. However, it is not known whether this allude to a place (like the town Uppsala) or to something else.
   Several researchers have contributed with a number of totally different interpretations of the messages on the Sparlösa rune stone. It may partly be a document about ownership to a large estate and partly a memorial for the donor (Jungner, 1938:71). One researcher saw a “legal document” showing that Öjul, the son of Erik, had transferred the ownership of the estate where the stone was raised to Alrik (von Friesen, 1940:87). The inscriptions on the Sparlösa stone has also been interpreted as a memorial for king Erik (Lindquist, 1940:8), as a memorial for the friendship to a killed warrior (Nordén, 1943:190) and as a religious document from heathen times (Marstrander, 1954:532). One researcher (Hyenstrand, 1996:157) saw parallels to the Germanic saga, and another researcher (Norr, 1998:217) interpreted the Sparlösa stone as a royal letter. Still another researcher argued that there actually are as many interpretations of the rune inscriptions on the Sparlösa rune stone as there are runologists (Andersson, 2001:10). And there is probably still space for additional interpretations.
   Three researchers (Almgren, 1940; Isaksson, 1998 and Andersson, 2001) have especially studied the images ornaments on the Sparlösa rune stone. Side A has two images, a man and a cross. Also side B has two images, parts of a face and parts of two spiral ornaments. Side C has four images, two snakes and two birds. Side D has only images. There is an image of a building, a house that may be a temple, at the top of the stone. There is a ship surrounded by two flying birds a bit over the middle of the stone. The ship has a mast with a hoisted sail. There is a small four-footed animal below the ship. The big animal may be a wolf or a lion. There is a horse with a rider, as well as a smaller animal, at the bottom of the stone. Maybe the small animal is a fabulous animal? The rider has pulled out his sword. The 16 images are carved as outlines. Some important motifs have a slight relief (Isakson, 1998:10). The artist has not tried to give the impression of any depth. The motifs are “hanging free” in the air.
   According to one interpretation (Andersson, 2001:20) the house on the Sparlösa rune stone represents the house of life and death. The ring in the middle of the gate is the gatekeeper watching the transfer between life and death and these states. The stems on the ship are strongly bent upwards. This corresponds with images of ships on image stones in the province of Gotland. It is also possible to see a connection with the Oseberg find. This is the richest find from the Viking Age in Norway, and it is dated to 834.
   Nordgren (2009) argued that the Sparlösa stone is a very early Christian image stone. At the latest the images are from the 7th century. There is no connection between the images and the text, that was added later. According to Nordgren Christianity settled in Scandinavia far earlier than normally presumed.
   As we can see from the examples above it is hard to see any direct link between the messages that are communicated with words and with images. Since the text is so hard to understand and there are many alternative interpretations it is not possible to prove a possible connection. We cannot see this verbal and visual inscription as a result of a conscious work with information design.
   According to one interpretation (Andersson, 2001:20) the house on the Sparlösa rune stone represents the house of life and death. The ring in the middle of the gate is the gatekeeper watching the transfer between life and death and these states. The stems on the ship are strongly bent upwards. This corresponds with images of ships on image stones in the province of Gotland. It is also possible to see a connection with the Oseberg find. This is the richest find from the Viking Age in Norway, and it is dated to 834.
   As we can see from the examples above it is hard to see any direct link between the messages that are communicated with words and with images. Since the text is so hard to understand and there are many alternative interpretations it is not possible to prove a possible connection. We cannot see this verbal and visual inscription as a result of a conscious work with information design.

The Ramsund inscription

The Ramsund inscription, or the Sigurd inscription, is situated close to Sundbyholm, which is near Eskilstuna in the province of Södermanland. This is the single largest rune inscription in Sweden. The 4,6 metre wide inscription was carried out on a solid and flat rock during the 11th century at a sound, called Ramsundet.
   The text in the Ramsund inscription tells about a long bridge crossing the sound. The inscription reads: “Sigrid, the mother of Alrik, the daughter of Orm, made this bridge for her husband Holmgers, the soul of the father of Sigröd”. Still today there is a fragment of the stone paved abutments of the bridge. Members of this family are known also from other rune stones.

There is no direct agreement between the content in text and the content in the images in the Ramsund inscription.

However, the images in the Ramsund inscription describe several episodes in the saga about Sigurd Fafnesbane. The band of runes form the snake Fafner, that Sugurd pierces with his sword. Similar visual descriptions of the piercing of the snake/dragon exist on other rune stones in Sweden. The motif is also cut in wood in medieval churches in Norway.
   There is no direct agreement between the verbal and visual content in the Ramsund inscription. Maybe the name Sigröd was an inspiration for the rune-master to use images from the saga about Sigurd? We cannot see this verbal and visual inscription as a result of a conscious work with information design.


SpångastenenThe rune stone Sö 164 at Spånga in Råby-Rönö parish. (Photo Bengt A Lundberg, The Swedish National Heritage Board's photographic database nr fd863307)..

The Spånga image rune stone is the only rune stone in Sweden with a clear connection between verbal and visual information (Snaedal Brink & Wachtmeister, 1984:149). This 196 cm high stone is located at Spånga, in Råby-Rönö parish in Nyköping municipality in the province of Södermanland (Brate och Wessén, 1924–1936a:125).
   There is a big and artistic image of a ship at the centre of the stone. The mast has a large circular cross. This ship resembles a ship on a rune stone at Lindö. The rune inscription contains short-branch runes as well as stave less runes, with remainders of the original paint (Palm, 2010:109). The text tells about a man who stood “manly in the front part of the ship” (Palm, 2010:131) or “daringly in the front part of the ship.” In a translation from a translation (Brate och Wessén, 1924–1936a:125) the inscription on the stone reads:

”Gudbärn, Odde, they raised this stone for Gudmar, their father.
Stood manly in the front part of the ship, lie buried westwards, he who died (?).”

The deceased is praised because he had been a fighter in the front part of the warship. Only the best and the most courageous of all men were selected for this task. Based on the shape of the runes and the design of the ornaments this stone has been dated to the middle of the 11th century, maybe 1040 (Blixt, 2010).
   The Spånga rune stone may be a result of conscious work with information design, and maybe the very first in Sweden.

The large Jelling stone

During the mid 1000th century King Harold Gormsson concurred the eastern part of Denmark and parts of Norway. He became known as king Harold Bluetooth. Sometime between 960 and 965 he converted to Christianity and was baptized. This marked the arrival of a new order and a new age and contributed to consolidating the royal power and a central authority in Denmark.
   King Harold wanted to honour his parents as well as tell his subjects about his own great success. So he ordered a memorial to be erected. The memorial consists of a large rune stone. It is not known exactly when or how this happened. The dating is uncertain. Different sources propose different years, from about 965 to 986. (For examples of different dating see Harrison 2009:126, Hedeager & Tvarmo 2001:275, Honour & Fleming 1991:320, Nationalmuseet 2010, Nielsen 1991:248–249, Palm 2010:460, Wikipedia 2010: Jellingestenarna, Zachrisson 1999:343–344.)
   The National Museum in Copenhagen is responsible for the “Jelling world inheritance” and dates the large Jelling stone to “about 965.” The world inheritance also includes a church, a burial mound, and an older and smaller rune stone erected about 955 by King Gorm in honour of his wife Thyra.
   The large Jelling rune stone is a three-sided pyramid, and 243 cm high boulder of granite. The weight is ten tons. This rune stone is often called “The certificate of baptism for Denmark.” This is partly due to the fact that the name Denmark is mentioned in the text and partly due to the fact that this grand rune stone is a very concrete and noticeable “official document.” It is an artefact showing the transition from Old Norse religion to Christianity.
   The work with this rune stone lasted more than one year for one or more artists and rune masters. It is quite possible that there were a group of artists at the royal court. Some sources state that the text was inscribed at two stages, or possible even at three stages, possibly several years apart. It is possible that the work started already 965 and was fully completed by 986.
   In contrast to many other rune stones this text is placed in organized in horizontal lines, framed and kept together by double bands on side A. The first three lines were inscribed during the first phase of the work. These lines hold one complete sentence. Furthermore the two other sides (B and C) with images were inscribed during this phase.
   Side A got a fourth line with the beginning of a new sentence during the second phase. This second sentence continues below the images on the two other sides. Different sources provide partly different interpretations and translations of these texts. However, the messages are basically the same. (For examples of different interpretations see Harrison 2009:126, Hedeager & Tvarmo 2001:275, Honour & Fleming 1991:320, Nationalmuseet: 2010, Nielsen 1991:248–249, Nordisk Forskningsinstitut: 2010, Wikipedia 2010: Jellingestenarna, Zachrisson 1999:343–344.)

Jelling A

Side A has text and graphic ornaments. (Photo: Sven Rosborn, Foteviken).

Side A has this text: “King Harold bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harold who won the whole of Denmark”.
   The meaning of the expression “the whole of Denmark” is actually vague. But it has certainly comprised the main part of present Denmark and also the provinces Halland and Skåne in Sweden.
   On one side (B) a large four-footed animal, probably a lion is fighting with a long heathen snake. This motif is a symbol for the battle between the good and the evil. The second sentence from the text-side continues below the image with the words “and Norway.” The whole sentence (A+B) reads: “The Harold who won the whole of Denmark and Norway.” The image tells that the whole of Denmark as well as Norway has been conquered and are now ruled by King Harold who represents “the good.”
   Technically the inscription on the large Jelling stone differ from inscriptions on other rune stones in Denmark. The figures are cut in a low profile. This indicates that the artist or artists were used to work with more soft stones that granite, like limestone or sandstone. This may indicate that the artist or artists had been working abroad or else were not from Denmark.
   Animal ornamentation had been around in many cultures since the Palaeolithic Age. The animal ornamentation had gone through a gradual development, away from biological reality in a direction to a more anatomical dissolution of the forms. Motifs with extreme abstraction reached their highest point around 800. However, the big four-footed animal on the large Jelling rune stone fighting with the snake has a comparatively true to life anatomy.

Jelling BJelling C

Side B shows a large four-footed animal fighting a long heathen snake. (Photo: Sven Rosborn, Foteviken.)
Side C shows the tied up, but winning Christ. (Photo: Wikipedia Common.)

The second image side (C) shows the tied up, but winning Christ. The second sentence on the text side (A) continues also here, with the words: “and turned the Danes to Christianity” This inscription may represent a third phase of the work on the rune stone. The whole sentence (A+C) reads: “The Harold who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity” together with the image (C) tells us that the subjects in Denmark (but not in Norway) had turned to Christianity.
   The large Jelling stone has got the oldest preserved image of Christ in Scandinavia. Here Christ has no cross. Christ is tied to the background by a ring around his belly and snares of band ornaments in interlacing patters. This kind of patterns with twisted and tied ropes and straps had been painted in European manuscripts already 200 years earlier.
   However, the attempts made by King Harold Bluetooth to force a new religion on his subjects failed. As a result he was driven away and was overthrown about 986 or 987. His own son Sweyn Forkbeard was the leader of a rebellion. Harold Bluetooth was wounded and escaped to his ring fort Jomsborg, where he died after a short period of time.
   In reality the process of Christening of Denmark and Norway took another century. Sweyn Forkbeard did not honour his parents with erection of a rune stone. However, this became a tradition among nobility. A rune stone fashion spread to one province after another northwards through Sweden. In most districts, this custom disappeared after a generation. However, in the l provinces of Södermanland and Uppland the rune stone fashion lasted into the 12th century.
   All in all King Harold used text, images and graphic form to mediate approximately the following three short and vigorous messages about power and religion to the subjects in Denmark:

  1. I, King Harold, honour my father Gorm and my mother Thyra.
  2. I, King Harold, won and now govern the whole of Denmark and Norway
  3. I, King Harold, turned the Danes to Christianity. I am the friend of God. The Danes are now loyal subjects to me and to God.

The whole form of the rune stone is used in an optimal way. It is artistically decorated with runes, graphic ornaments and images. The two visual stories are closely connected with two of the three verbal messages.
   From the beginning the verbal as well as the visual inscriptions were painted in strong and clear colours. However, these colours have disappeared due to influence of various weather conditions and air pollutions during more than one thousand years. In the museum Royal Jelling there are copies of the three sides of the large Jelling stone. These copies are painted in the hues that probably were used from the beginning. The painting was important. Good contrast between the hues makes it easy to distinguish runes and image elements. Furthermore the painted background contributes to “holding together” the story on each side. At the same time the ornaments help “binding together” the different sides to a whole. We can actually see how the ornaments form distinct knots in each corner. (Compare with images from “Danmarks IT-center for uddannelse og forskning.”
   As an originator King Harold Bluetooth had three intended messages. He wanted to tell his subjects about his parents, about his power, and about his religion. Most likely King Harold Bluetooth needed help to design and plan the messages and create a sketch with preliminary messages. In the next step the king certainly needed help by professional artists and rune masters to actually execute the designed messages. By inscribing and painting the words, images and ornaments on the large boulder these people created an original document, the finished rune stone. The large Jelling stone contains messages that are mediated and distributed to the subjects when they look at it, and secondly when they are told about it. Each individual receiver will interpret the messages and create interpreted messages, maybe assisted by literate people who could read.
   The graphic form on the Jelling stone indicates that King Harold Bluetooth from the beginning only had in mind one side with text honouring his parents, and the two sides with the visual stories. The very limited space for the other texts strongly suggests that King Harold Bluetooth wanted to add them afterwards, thus clarifying and emphasizing his own importance. A combination of images and text work better than text alone. Nowadays it is not at all uncommon that people change their minds during the progress of the work.
   It is easy to imagine that the oldest example in Scandinavia of a document with a combination of images and text would be an artefact where the text is written in Latin on parchment. But the words on the large Jelling stone show the common Scandinavian language that ordinary people used during the Viking Age. The messages are mediated using runes that had been manually and laboriously inscribed in a huge boulder. We can imagine that King Harold, as the originator and buyer fully decided about the content of the message, but that the unknown artists and rune-masters had some artistic freedom. Nowadays it is still common that designers are totally unknown to the intended receivers.
   All three messages are clearly mediated to a large audience. How many people have been able to take part of these messages during more than one thousand years? How many people have seen images of the large Jelling stone in books, journals, magazines, television, Internet and other media? Certainly many thousands of individuals have seen the messages that were created more than a thousand years ago. This is really unique.

Rune Pettersson

Alskog Tjängvide 1. Foto: Bengt A Lundberg, Riksantikvarieämbetets Kulturmiljöbild. fd905410. | |
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©Arkeologiska nyheter & facta - Internet Malmö 2011
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47
Bert Åkesson,
17 dec. 2011 02:47