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Vikings. The word is reminiscent of wild warriors, swords, battle ax and bloodthirsty raids. Most of what we know about the Vikings are exaggerations written by people they met. There is an opportunity for the Vikings to speak for themselves: by reading messages carved on rune stones.

Rune stones are upright flagstones with messages carved in runes. They became fashionable after the Danish king Harold Bluetooth raised a – known as Jelling Stone – in memory of his parents, the late Danish king Gorm the Old and his wife Tyra, sometime between 960 and 985 AD. The Jelling Stone aroused enthusiasm for rune stones that stretched throughout the 1

1th century and in some places to the 12th century. Today, around 3000 of these 1000-year-old stones can be found throughout Scandinavia and the British Isles, and new ones are constantly being discovered.

Here are some surprising facts about Viking rune stones.

. 1 It should be seen Viking rune stones.

In the Viking Age (800-1050 AD) Rune stones were often painted and the carved letters filled with bright colors. Rune stones were placed along waterways and property boundaries, at intersections and on hills so people could find and read them.

. 2 Rune stones are not tombstones.

Rune stones often mention people who have died but have never been raised next to a grave. Instead, they commemorate deceased people. Sometime between 1010 and 1050, a woman named Torgärd raised a rune stone near the village of Högby in the Östergötland region (now in southern Sweden). Torgard's Stone mentions that the farmer Gulle had five sons and lists how each of them died a violent death. The stone is dedicated to one of the sons, Torgard's maternal uncle, Assur, whose life ended in the Byzantine Empire (now Greece and Turkey).

. 3 Most Viking rune stones are more Christian than pagan.

In pop culture, Vikings are portrayed as pagans, but the Viking Age was truly a transitional period when Scandinavia transitioned from paganism to Christianity. Those converted to Christianity have set runic stones to declare their faith to their pagan neighbors. More rune stones are decorated with crosses and evoke the names of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary as the pagan gods of Norse mythology.

. 4 Rune stones contain complex messages.

The Viking Age Society was a predominantly oral society. Important decisions were made verbally rather than in writing. The rune stones, however, show that there was a literary culture with professional rune carvers chiseling short, poignant messages in stone. They followed a strict formula: the name of the commissar, the name of the deceased, what this person has achieved in life, a prayer, and the name of the rune carver. Some runic stones follow this formula in the verse. In the traditional Swedish province of Södermanland, a rune stone is used by the two brothers Håsten and Holmsten in fornyrðislag a poetic meter that uses an alliteration-based complex regression pattern. lifted.

. 5 The rune stones were carved with the Futhark.

The runic alphabet of Viking Age Scandinavia, the Futhark, is named after its first six symbols ( f u th ] a r and k ). Runestones use a later version, the Younger Futhark, which contains 16 symbols derived from the 24-letter Older Futhark. The reduced number of letters that have been made for efficient rune carving is a disadvantage for modern scholars that a single symbol may represent several different sounds, so that the translation of rune stone messages may be difficult.

. 6 More than 2500 Viking rune stones can be found in Sweden.

Medieval texts usually focus on Vikings from Denmark, Norway and Iceland. However, the most famous rune stones are in Sweden. Since the stones were mainly an expression of Christian belief, scientists suspect that the large number in Sweden is evidence of the conflict between the old and the new religion.

. 7 Women could and did order rune stones.

Viking Age Scandinavia was a male society, but women could speak for themselves. We know that they made their own decisions and controlled their personal assets because women commissioned rune stones, which was a big and expensive undertaking. Estrid Sigfastsdotter, a wealthy and powerful woman who lived north of what is now Stockholm between 1020 and 1080, raised several rune stones in her own name in memory of her husbands and sons. She is also one of the earliest known Swedish Christians.

. 8 Rune stones explain the social position of a person.

People are mentioned on rune stones in relation to family members to explain who they are. Because of this practice, we know that Vikings tracked their descent through their mothers and fathers, depending on which parents had the higher social status. On a rune stone from the 12th century from the Swedish Uppland region, not far from Estrid Sigfastsdotter's residence, a man named Ragnvald proclaims himself the chief of a warband in the Byzantine Empire and son of Fastvi, his mother. Ragnvald never mentions his father.

. 9 Rune stones were bragged.

One thing we can say for sure about the Vikings: they were not humble. When they achieved something great, they wanted people to know about it. What could be nicer than chiseling it on a rune stone? A man named All told the world – when he was still alive – that he had been a Viking in the British Isles with the Danish king Cnut the Great.

10th Runestones testify to a far-reaching trade network.

The Swedish Vikings, at the center of a trade and communications network, maintained close ties with civilizations from the Netherlands to the Middle East. The network followed the waterways and roads of the Baltic Sea and Russia, but scientists are not sure how it actually worked. It must have been strong and close-knit, as the news of a Viking attack in Central Asia in the 1020s, which ended in disaster, traveled unharmed to the families who were waiting at home. In memory of the warriors who never returned, 30 rune stones were set up.

. 11 Vikings carved messages of love and affection.

Runic stones indicate victories in combat and personal triumphs, but the messages can also be surprisingly delicate. In the 1050s in central Sweden, a farmer named Holmgöt raised a rune stone over his wife Odendisa, where he tells the world that there is no better woman running a farm than she. In Scania, the once Danish region of southern Sweden, a warrior named Saxe raised a rune stone in the 980s to commemorate his comrade Asbjörn, who did not fled into battle but fought until he lost his weapon.

] 12. People used runes long after the rune stone faded.

When the Viking Age ended, it was like raising rune stones, but people continued to use runes. For centuries, runes have been carved into everyday objects to claim possessions, cast magical spells, and even make jokes. The west Swedish town Lödöse is a treasure trove of medieval objects with runic inscriptions. Scholars have found a 13th-century wooden staff on which a man named Hagorm has carved a magic spell to aid in bloodshed, as well as a rump of cattle called Eve. However, when Scandinavia joined the Middle Ages, it adopted the Latin alphabet (the one you are reading now).

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