Norwegian wood?
August 13, 2013 12:47 AM   Subscribe

A family heirloom has a mysterious inscription in what I assume is a Scandinavian language. But what is it?

My dad has a hand-carved wooden mug, photos of which are here and here. It was passed down from his late father, whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Norway in the early 1870s. My dad doesn't know anything about the mug's origins or how long it's been in the family. We assume it was probably made in Norway. It's also just occurred to me that possibly my grandfather acquired it in Iceland, where he lived for a time in the early 1950s.

Carved into the bottom of the mug are 10 characters. Four of them are clearly numbers: 1778. I would like to know what the other six characters are and what they might mean. I'm guessing the inscription may identify the person who made the mug, but what alphabet has characters that look like that? I haven't seen the one that looks like an O with a dot in the middle or the one that looks like a combined A and V in any historical Scandinavian alphabets I've looked at online.
posted by theory to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't translate, but try looking up runes.
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 1:42 AM on August 13, 2013

Those are surely not runes. Nor do those letters appear to come from the Norwegian alphabet. I would guess it is one of the Sami languages, but I am not familiar with those.
posted by three blind mice at 2:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

They look to me like someone's initials, then maybe a word for year (a variant of "anno"?), followed by the year.

It's pretty crudely carved, so it may even have been something made in school, where the use of Latin would have been more common.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:17 AM on August 13, 2013

Could be initials (looks like "JJ" to me) followed by a house mark?
posted by harujion at 2:46 AM on August 13, 2013

Don't know about the first 4 symbols, but after that it looks like "anno 1778" ("in the year 1778" in Latin). The "ann" of "anno" is collapsed into a monogram.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:08 AM on August 13, 2013

I too think the first letters are initials. Maybe JJ. It's a fairly common practice among wood crafters of all times in Sweden and Norway.

You might be able to find out more about this particular wood worker if you contact the norwegian crafts association. Sometimes they keep tabs of old craftsmen.

Website here. Contact address: post (at)

Good luck!
posted by Rabarberofficer at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh. And Icelandic equivalent. Email: hfi (at)
posted by Rabarberofficer at 8:01 AM on August 13, 2013

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that that is neither JJ nor Anno.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2013

« Older The AC, she just can't take it, Jim.   |   Questions about getting little bro's 18th bday... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.