This Viking-age gravestone dates from the 11th century and was given to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland as a gift from Sir Alex Seton in 1787. Seton was a club member, and his uncle George was banker to the Swedish king at the beginning of the 18th century.
The gravestone, which contains the image of a snake and a number of runic symbols, has resided in many locations in its 200-plus years in Scotland. It was initially located on the Royal Mile and then moved to the top of the Princes Street Gardens, just below the castle. Edinburgh City Council decided that it should be protected and relocated to a place of more prominence, Edinburgh University. As of December 2019, it resides outside the University’s School of Scandinavian Studies.
The rune is only one of three such stones that reside in the United Kingdom. The gray granite is attributed to a runemaster named Erik, and the markings are said to be a form of prayer from a son to his father. Reading from the head of the snake and moving clockwise it has been translated to read, “Ari raised the stone in memory of Hjalmr, his father. May God help his spirit.”
Know Before You Go
The location can be fairly tricky to find. Once you are in front of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, 50 George Square, head to the concrete steps to your right. When you've reached the top you should be standing in front of a quad. Head toward the David Hume Lecture Theatre. The stone will be located to your left.