Runes in Norway through 2000 years
The runic alphabet has been in use in Norway for almost 2000 years. Runic inscriptions, first carved not long after the birth of Christ, are the earliest examples of the use of Germanic language in Scandinavia.
Archaeologists can tell us much about how people lived in Norway in prehistoric times, but only runic inscriptions can shed light on their language and the way they expressed themselves.
Runic inscriptions are not always easy to interpret. The earliest inscriptions were written in Proto-Norse, a language that is quite far removed from modern Norwegian. Old Norse, the language of Viking and medieval Norway, is not so very different from present-day Norwegian, and is also much better understood.
The Latin alphabet came to Norway along with Christianity around the year 1000, but did not replace runes. The two writing systems were used side by side. People soon started using Latin letters to write Old Norse on parchment with ink. In time, runes were also used to carve Latin texts.
The exhibition presents runic inscriptions found in Norway, mainly in eastern and southern Norway. The first section shows the development of runes from the earliest known inscriptions from the Early Iron Age, through the Viking Age and into the Middle Ages. The second section is thematic and shows the breadth and depth of runic inscriptions from the Scandinavian Middle Ages. At the end is a short presentation of the learned and popular usages of runes after the Norwegian Reformation in 1536.