Norse Rune Code Cracked

Interesting news, a scholar from the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings that has been found along these last years. This reveals that they have been sending messages to each other, messages as simple as a “Kiss me”.

It was K. Jonas Nordby, a runologist, that was able to discover the secret behind the jötunvillur code while doing his PhD research. This specific code can be found in over 80 Norse inscriptions. On a stick from the 13th century he found that two men, by the names of Sigurd and Lavrans, carved their own names both in the code and also standard runes. The jötunvillur code consists in replacing the original runic character with the last sound of the rune name. Lets make an example out of it, the rune for “F”, pronounced “fe”, would be turned into an “E”, while the rune for “K”, pronounced Kaun, became an “N”.

Nordby says that it is like solving a puzzle, he started to see gradually a pattern in what was apparently a meaningless combination of runes.

For those who thought that these coded runes would reveal any kind of a deep secret from the Norse people, will be largely disappointed. The messages that were found so far seem to be either used in learning or having some kind of a playful tone. In one of the cases the message was “Kiss me”. Nordby explains that there is little reason to believe that the rune codes should hide sensitive messages, people often wrote short everyday messages apparently.

In many of the cases for instance, those who wrote the coded runes also left comments urging the readers to try to figure it out. Sometimes they would also boast of their abilities at writing the codes.

There are several kinds of Norse rune codes, some of which have been solved, while others remain a mystery. In article published last year in Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies, Nordby writes that  in some cases there is not enough information to piece together what the code could be.

But equally often an inscription may be complete and as clear as day, and yet make no sense. In many examples of the latter type the trained eye will spot the hand of a total illiterate scribbling rune-like symbols, or an unsteady and untrained writer trying to copy a runic text without any understanding of what it says. The most difficult cases to give up on are those that yield no sense even though the runes are well executed and the carving apparently secure. In an attempt to find a solution the dedicated runologist will try everything, viewing the inscription from all conceivable angles.

Nordby hopes that his new discovery will help other runologists. He says that very little is known about the use of runic codes, so obviously each new piece of information is important. We may have to look at reading and writing runes in a totally new way and by doing so, it will also help us in understanding how the runic knowledge was conveyed.

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