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Undley bracteate: Wikis


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The Undley bracteate, a 5th century bracteate found in Undley Common, near Lakenheath, Suffolk (52°24′N 0°29′E / 52.40°N 00.48°E / 52.40; 00.48). It bears the earliest known inscription that can be argued to be in Anglo-Frisian Futhorc (as opposed to Common Germanic Elder Futhark). A picture of the bracteate can be seen here.

The image on the bracteate is an adaptation of an Urbs Roma coin type issued by Constantine the Great, conflating the helmeted head of the emperor and the image of Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf on one face. With a diameter of 2.3 cm, it weighs 2.24 grams. It may have originated in northern Germany or southern Scandinavia, and been brought to England with an early Anglo-Saxon settler.

The inscription reads:

ᚷᚫᚷᚩᚷᚫᛗᚫᚷᚫᛗᛖᛞᚢ [the vowels of the first word are actually written as ligatures]
g͡æg͡og͡æ – mægæ medu,

The o being the earliest known instance of an os rune Rune-Os.png contrasting with æsc Rune-Æsc.png .

The mægæ medu is interpreted "meed for the kinsmen", i.e. "reward for relatives" referring to the bracteate itself. The gægogæ appears to be some magical invocation or battle cry, comparable to the g͡ag͡ag͡a on the Kragehul I lance-shaft: in both cases the ga (, go) are written as bindrunes, that is the X shape of the gyfu has side-twigs attached for the vowel. Since the entire difference of æ vs. o consists in slightly bent twigs, in a context of a magical chant or cry rather than actual words, the inscription presents only tenuous evidence of incipient Anglo-Frisian brightening.


  • J. Hines and B. Odemstedt, The Undley bracteate and its runic inscription, Studien zur Sachsenforschungen, 6 (1987), pp. 73-94.
  • J. Hines, The Scandinavian character of Anglian England in the pre-Viking period, BAR British Series 124 (Oxford, 1984), pp. 204-9.
  • S. E. West, Gold bracteate from Undley, Suffolk, Frühmittelalterliche Studien, 17 (1983), p. 459.
  • M. Axboe, The Scandinavian gold bracteates, Acta Archaeologica, 52 (1982), p. 75.

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