Rune Stone- Church Island
by Hannah Bernarius (UCC student, MA in Museum Studies 2020-2021)
Beginish Island, Valentia Harbour, Co. Kerry
Mid 11th – 12th Century
Vertical height: 36cm, Maximum width: 43cm, thickness: 9cm
Unknown – Extremely heavy
This stone, with a runic inscription, was found in 1955 on Beginish Island, Valentia Harbour, Co. Kerry, during archaeological excavations of a settlement. It is one of a very small number of rune-inscribed stones from Ireland. It was not in its original position when found, having been reused as a doorway lintel. Several finds from the house are of Scandinavian character, of Viking Age date, as are other finds from the island.
The stone, in poor condition and broken in places, is of local sandstone. A small equal-armed cross is pocked onto its surface, which suggests that there was a Christian element to the monument. The inscription, however, is in runes, the alphabet of the Scandinavians who were pagan in background. The inscription is partly obliterated and some letters are indecipherable. There have been several attempts at translating it over the years,. It appears to read:
?(i)r(·)r(is)ti(·)sti?(·)??n??mu?u???risti . . .
which may be loosely interpreted as
?(i)r erected this stone; mu?u??? carved the runes
The inscription has been dated to the mid-eleventh century or later. It may have been erected by Christianised Scandinavians, perhaps from Cork or Limerick, who settled on Beginish Island to maintain it as a maritime haven for passing Viking traders. It is clear, however, that this could not have been established without the agreement and support of Corcu Duibne, the local Irish rulers, whose royal centre was located on the mainland nearby. The inclusion of the cross on the rune stone may have been a deliberate act to maintain links between the Vikings and the local Irish rulers.
- O’Kelly, Michael J., and Séamus Kavanagh. “An Island Settlement at Beginish, Co. Kerry.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, vol. 57, 1955, pp. 159–94.
This is the paper written following the initial excavations of the settlement on Beginish Island. It notes the findings from throughout the excavations of the buildings and the finds from the within the settlement. The paper also includes the initial interpretations and translations of the runes found on the rock.
- Sheehan, John, et al. “A Viking Age Maritime Haven: A Reassessment of the Island Settlement at Beginish, Co. Kerry.” The Journal of Irish Archaeology, vol. 10, 2001, pp. 93–119.
This paper offers a reassessment of the settlement on Beginish Island, using the information gathered from the previous excavations as well new information gathered and discovered since the previous excavations. The paper offers a new interpretation of the runic inscription of the stone, as well as a discussion into the possible contexts of the settlement on the island.