A thousand-year-old rune stone, created by one of the great stonemasons of the late Viking Age, has been uncovered in Hagby, Sweden. The ancient artifact was revealed as construction workers were digging to install a lightning conductor outside a local church.

While hidden under several feet of earth, the discovery of the beautifully intricate piece was not a complete surprise to historians.

"The stone is known from before,” archaeologist Emelie Sunding told The Local. “It was depicted in the 17th century, and when the medieval church was torn down in the 19th century, we have written records that mention the stone as lost and that it had maybe been moved."

rune sweden church A portion of the millennial-old runic inscription discovered outside a church in Sweden. (Photo: Emelie Sunding/Upplandsmuseet)

Measuring 6 feet x 4.2 feet, the nearly complete stone features a bird-like figure and rune symbols elegantly scripted inside a scroll. Part of the inscription reads, "Jarl and …stone for Gerfast, his father."

While the names mentioned in the stone are unknown to archaeologists, the stonemason behind the well-preserved piece is considered one of the Viking Age's great runemasters. Named Fot, he gained acclaim during the mid-11th century in Sweden for his artistic and intricate designs. Because of the great care he took in both choosing and preparing his stones, many of his works make up some of the most well-preserved ancient runic stones ever discovered.

For runemaster A runstone created by Fot in the late Viking Age. (Photo: Håkan Svensson/Wikimedia Commons)

According to archaeologists working at the site, the rune stone will be removed, cleaned, examined and then likely placed near the church for display.

"It's very rare to find stones in this good condition," Sunding said in translated remarks from HD.se. "Especially if they are completely unknown or missing. One can find fragments of rune stones, it is not uncommon, but finding one that is nearly full is a very rare discovery."

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Ancient Viking rune stone, missing for 200 years, unearthed in Sweden
The nearly complete stone from a great Viking Age stonemason was found outside a church in Hagby, Sweden.