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Runolog Erik Moltke, 1971

During a long working life as the National Museum’s runologist Erik Moltke (1901-84) naturally visited Jelling at intervals, where the two rune stones received his special attention. In 1931 Moltke arranged for a chemist to seal a crack in Harald Bluetooth’s large rune stone with artificial granite. However, he was forced later to admit that the repair did not last for many years.  

Moltke showed an innovative approach to the investigation of rune stones. From early on he began to use artificial light when photographing inscriptions and motifs. He was once again in Jelling in 1971 and there are many detailed photographs from the visit. Some of them were taken at night, when there was greater opportunity to manipulate the light, so that it shone only over the surface and accentuated details. These details consisted of both the deliberate carvings of runes and pictures, but also damage relevant to the condition of the stones, the effects of 1000 years of weather. Such damage seriously worried Moltke. In 1971 he wrote about Harald’s large rune stone in the archaeological periodical “Kuml”: “Can we afford for snow and frost to be allowed unchecked to break down Scandinavia’s finest rune stone?”    

Moltke’s photographs are also interesting today, as they can be used for comparison with the present condition of the rune stones. In this way damage can be monitored and unfortunately it must be noted that cracks have become longer and more of the stones’ surfaces have fallen off between 1971 and today.