Kirkdale Sundial: when was it inscribed?

Jan 16, 2012 by

The Kirkdale sundial and its inscription in Old English of the Viking period was mentioned in an earlier posting in connection with the technique — widely employed in various ancient and medieval manuscripts and inscriptions — of placing a line over an abbreviation, such as PRS for ‘priests’. Another notable feature of the Kirdale sundial inscription is its failing system of case and gender, indicative of it being incribe in the Late Old English, or Viking period. But when exactly was it inscribed?

The right-hand panel of the sundial mentions “IN EADWARD DAGVM CNG &N TOSTI DAGVM EORL”, which translates as “in the days of King Edward and of Earl Tostig”. But when were “the days of King Edward and of Earl Tostig”? King Edward referred to here is Edward the Confessor, who reigned from June 8, 1042 to January 5, 1066 (his death actually led to the chain of events culminating in the 1066 invasions of first Harald Hardrada, the king of Norway and then of William the Normandy). Can we narrow the time frame any further?

For this, we have to turn to “the days of… Earl Tostig”. Who’s he? His full name, Tostig Godwinson, indicates that he is a son of Earl Godwin of Wessex; the use of a patronymic for a surname is a clear example of a Scandinavian influence. Tostig’s brother, Harold Godwinson, is better known as the king Harold II of England. He is the king who fought both Harald III Hardrada at the battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066 and later opposed William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings (October 1066), where he was shot in the eye with an arrow (yikes!). Despite being Harold II’s brother, Tostig Godwinson fought him on the side of Harald Hardrada; in fact, he was instrumental in convincing Harald Hardrada to invade England in the first place.  It didn’t work out too well for Tostig nor for Harald Hardrada, as both of them were killed in battle at Stamford Bridge (and fewer than twenty of the three hundred Norwegian ships returned home).

What led to the fatal confrontation and enmity between the two Godwinsons was the fact that Harold persuaded Edward the Confessor, who was still king then, to agree to the demands of the rebels up in Yorkshire, as a result of which Tostig was outlawed because he refused to accept his deposition as commanded by Edward. This happened in 1065, marking the end of “the days of… Earl Tostig”. Since he became the Earl of Northumbria in 1055, we can now narrow down “the days of King Edward and of Earl Tostig” to the decade between 1055-1065.

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