Rediscovered and the focus of current research – Olshausen’s “Stone Object with Runic Inscription” from Amrum


In the 1880s, Otto Olshausen (1840-1922) learned that Amrum children had found a fragment of what was presumably a medieval whetstone. He recognized that the object had runic markings; Years later he published the find and handed it over to the care of the Berlin Museum of Prehistory and Early History. After the museum's Storage for archaeological finds, housed in the Gropius Building, suffered severe war damage in 1945, the Amrum find, like many other artifacts, was considered lost. 

The surprise was all the greater when the Kiel junior professor for Frisian philology, Dr. Christoph Winter, carried out new research into the whereabouts of the object in the winter of 2023/24. The artefact was actually discovered and reliably identified by the Berlin experts in the inventory, which had no signature due to the war. The object is now available for new scientific investigations around eighty years after its disappearance.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, a small interdisciplinary working group meeting took place at the NIhK in May 2024, at which Dr. Christoph Winter, the responsible restorer of the Berlin Museum, Philipp Schmidt-Reimann and the Kiel University expert on runic inscriptions Dr. Christiane Zimmermannn, but also Dr. Katrin Struckmeyer, Dr. Martina Karle, Dr. Kirsten Hueser, Dr. Martin Segschneider and Prof. Dr. Hauke Jöns – all affiliated at the NIhK – took part. 

Various examinations were carried out, partly with the help of a digital microscope, in order to clarify which rock the object was made from, what function it originally had, what dating should be assumed and what cultural and historical context it should be placed in. In addition, it was necessary to clarify whether the runic symbols were applied at the same time and by the same person and what meaning they might have had. The documentation created during the investigation is currently being evaluated and will be published in a joint publication.