The exhibition 'Runes – from graffiti to gravestone' invites museum guests on an expedition into the runic universe. It presents the runic alphabet and runic inscriptions in a new way. Throughout the entire exhibition, guests have the opportunity to investigate, try out and play with the runic alphabet. There is also a range of original objects from Denmark, Norway and Sweden on display, illustrating the diversity of runic characters and their use.
The exhibition has been brought to Stavanger from Moesgård Museum in Denmark. The Rogaland region is a core area for rune findings, and the exhibition will also present many of our own runic inscriptions - even with sounds!
The runes are the oldest writing system in Scandinavia. The earliest runic inscriptions date from the second century AD and runic characters were in use until late in the Middle Ages. During this time, numerous changes took place, affecting the alphabet, the language and the use of runes. Many different objects bearing runic inscriptions show that medieval runes were frequently used to communicate messages about all manner of things; the texts provide an insight into daily life, beliefs, morals, dreams and customs long ago.
The runic alphabet
The runic alphabet is often referred to as the futhark, after the names of the first six characters. The earliest runic alphabet consisted of 24 characters, but around the beginning of the Viking Age it was reduced to only 16. Some characters could now relate to several different sounds. For example the u-rune could be read as u, o, y, ø and v. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia, there was an increase of contact with the rest of Europe, and power was centralized. The Latin writing system was introduced and gradually replaced the runes. However, the runes were used up to the fifteenth century, especially for short, everyday messages. The medieval runic alphabet was extended so that the characters corresponded better with the sounds of speech. Many medieval runic inscriptions consist of spontaneous messages in an oral style, connected to everyday needs of communication.
Do you want to learn more about runes? Visit Moesgård museum’s homepage about runes: www.rundtomruner.dk
Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger
November 1 2009 – March 21 2010