Etched in Stone
Explore a rare collection of early medieval namestones that are unique to North East England
This exhibition is all about the early medieval people of North East England, as seen through a rare set of 31 sculptures called 'namestones'.Each one is unique, and commemorates an individual who lived through the height of the Viking raids.Typically carved with a name and a cross with a cavity that may once have held a relic or a jewel, their style, shape and design is unique to the region.
Today, the namestones are scattered in museums across the country, and even overseas, but by creating 3D models, we've been able to re-unite many of them to display as a single online collection for the very first time. The sculptures are being displayed alongside other artefacts that have recently been discovered during ongoing excavations on Lindisfarne, a tidal island that was once home to the first community in Britain to be attacked by the Vikings in AD 793. Together, they tell the story of the people who lived in North East England during the height of the Viking raids.
What is a namestone?
Namestones are a type of small grave marker, emblazoned with a name, usually written using runes or Latin characters, but sometimes in both. Dating from AD 650 – 850, this was a time when the first Northumbrian kings converted to Christianity, when artists fused decorative styles from the Irish, Anglo-Saxon and Mediterranean worlds, and when the Viking raids began.
Runes & Artwork
Northumbria was a melting pot of different artistic influences, from Ireland to the Mediterannean, and they fused together to produce a distinctive new style. This video examines some of the different motifs.