Home > Archaeology, History > Texts Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions

Texts Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions

Brill Academic Publishers | September 2003 | ASIN: 9004123962 | 336 pages | PDF

This volume gathers all older fuþark inscriptions found in Denmark, Germany, England, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Bosnia, Rumania, Norway and Sweden. It contains essays on early runic writing, the historical and archaeological contexts of runic objects, and a new theory on the origin of runic writing. The book contains also a catalogue of the runic inscriptions found in the regions mentioned above. The catalogue gives datings, readings and interpretations, plus limited graphic, orthographic and linguistic analyses of the inscriptions from the above mentioned corpora, complete with concise bibliographical references. The overall aim has been to provide the reader with a practical survey of the oldest inscriptions from the aforementioned areas, together with relevant archaeological and cultural-historical data. The book is particularly useful for runologists, students and others interested in runes, such as archaeologists, historians, linguists and amateurs. It is actually a handbook covering all older runic inscriptions and their context.

This volume gathers nearly all older fuπark1 inscriptions dating from the period 150–700 AD found in Denmark, Germany, England, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Bosnia, Rumania, Norway and Sweden. The book starts with essays on early runic writing and the historical and archaeological contexts of runic objects, and continues with a catalogue of the runic inscriptions found in the regions mentioned above. The inscriptions of Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Bosnia and Hungary have been listed together as the Continental Corpus. One find from Hungary and two finds from Rumania are listed among the Danish and Gothic Corpus.

The catalogue gives datings, readings and interpretations, plus limited graphic, orthographic and linguistic analyses of the inscriptions from the above mentioned corpora, complete with concise bibliographical references. This approach ensures that the most important data is presented with regard to the objects, contexts, runes and interpretations. In many cases the readings or interpretations (or both) are tentative and more or less speculative. There are several reasons—runes are vague, damaged or abraded, and sometimes illegible. Of course one can conclude that an inscription is ‘uninterpretable’, but I thought it wise to offer a few possibilities on which others can base further research or conjectures.

The overall aim has been to provide the reader with a practical survey of the oldest inscriptions from the aforementioned areas, together with relevant archaeological and cultural-historical data. Within this framework there was no room for extensive linguistic considerations and exhaustive references to other interpretations, although information from various sources has been compiled in the catalogue.

The main issues are the origin and initial spread of runic knowledge, and the aims and use of early runic writing. My point of departure was the comparison of the earliest runic traditions in the countries around the North Sea (England, the Netherlands, and Denmark) and on the Continent, predominantly Germany. I chose not to focus on Scandinavia, as is more usual when studying the early runic traditions. This unorthodox approach stems from the hope that in this way some answers might be found to questions concerning the essence of runic script in the first few centuries AD. When focusing on the function of runic writing, one automatically has to ask why this special script was designed at all, and who first used it. It seems logical to look for the origins of runic script not in Scandinavia, but nearer the Roman limes. This point of view has been disputed, but it appeared interesting enough to warrant further investigation. I have therefore looked at the question of the first runographers and their social context. It is vital to take a fresh look at the contents of early runic inscriptions, and in fact a change of perspective has led to unexpected insights.

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