The Spatial Order of the Scanian Runestones

Analysing Runestone Clustering and Pathways through GIS

  • Gabriel Norburg


This article presents and discusses the test results of GIS-based spatial quantitative analysis conducted on the Scanian runestones. The analysis was conducted as part of a Master’s thesis at Lund University (Norburg 2013). The primary goal was to test one of the current theories on the motives behind regularities in the surrounding contexts of runestones, which suggests that runestones generally were raised along common frames of reference in the landscape, such as roads, rivers, grave fields and regional boundaries. In this article the results are re-examined and discussed further, with the purpose of highlighting the potential of using predictive modelling in Scandinavian archaeology. Spatial statistics and least-cost path analysis, used together, can be useful tools when discussing prehistoric infrastructure. The analysis is divided into two parts. The first tests whether the Scanian runestones were randomly clustered (through Ripley K & nearest neighbour analysis), the second whether they were situated on a path of high energy conservatism. The results show that the Scanian runestones were not only placed in an orderly fashion, but probably also placed along very few routes of low energy consumption. I argue that the Scanian runestones were most likely placed along one common frame of reference, probably the largest piece of infrastructure in the area. I also argue for a connection between the sudden and ordered appearance of the Scanian runestones and the higher echelons of the Danish province of Scania, which was newly formed at the time. By discussing statistical results from a historical context in this manner, I hope to highlight the very broad usefulness of quantitative and predictive methods when studying prehistoric Scandinavian landscapes.