Reading between the runes

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) recently passed the milestone of one million records generated since the project’s foundation in 1997. Among the highlights announced at the launch of the latest PAS annual report (for 2020) is this gold cross pendant dated to c.AD 700-900.

The 26mm-long object (found in October 2019 near Berwick-upon-Tweed and recorded by the PAS in 2020), bears a runic inscription that reads ‘Eadruf’, possibly a personal name that could reflect the pendant’s maker or owner. Objects with runic text are rare in this country, and rune-inscribed crosses are even rarer, making this pendant a particularly unusual find. As for the runes themselves, according to a report by Professor John Hines from Cardiff University, ‘Old English personal names beginning “Ead-” (”happiness”, “fortune”) are common, but the only two known with a second element beginning “r-” are Eadred and Eadric. No personal-name element “ruf” can be identified in any Germanic language, and Eadruf would therefore be a hitherto unknown and etymologically mysterious name.’The cross pendant was found on land that lies, historically, within the Chapelry of Tweedmouth, part of an area with spiritual and territorial ties to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. At present, however, there are no known archaeological remains to indicate an early medieval settlement within the vicinity of the pendant’s find-spot, and, according to the PAS, there are no other contemporary finds from the immediate area either, although a later 10th-century copper-alloy strap fitting (or mount) was found 1.5km to the north-east.

For more on this artefact, including original research citations and further details of Professor Hines’ report, see the entry by Benjamin Westwood, Finds Liaison Officer for Durham, Darlington & Teesside, at, or search for DUR-B62F57 on the PAS online database at

Text: H Blair
Image: Durham County Council/ CC BY 2.0
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