History

Documentaries for December

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Often during the holiday season I get rather bored so have a tendency to watch large numbers of documentaries. As many of you are also documentary buffs here are some for the month. Enjoy.

BBC – Treasures of the Lourve

Paris-based writer Andrew Hussey travels through the glorious art and surprising history of an extraordinary French institution to show that the story of the Louvre is the story of France. As well as exploring the masterpieces of painters such as Veronese, Rubens, David, Chardin, Gericault and Delacroix, he examines the changing face of the Louvre itself through its architecture and design. Medieval fortress, Renaissance palace, luxurious home to kings, emperors and more recently civil servants, today it attracts eight million visitors a year. The documentary also reflects the very latest transformation of the Louvre – the museum’s recently-opened Islamic Gallery.

The Search for the Crystal Skulls

From the Nazis’ search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon’s mines – this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

Note this link may not be available outside Australasia.

http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/71964227513/The-Search-For-The-Crystal-Skulls

A History of Art in Three Colours – Gold

For the very first civilisations and also our own, the yellow lustre of gold is the most alluring and intoxicating colour of all. From the midst of pre-history to a bunker deep beneath the Bank of England, Dr James Fox reveals how golden treasures made across the ages reflect everything we have held as sacred.

A History of Art in Three Colours – Blue

Dr James Fox explores how, in the hands of artists, the colours gold, blue and white have stirred our emotions, changed the way we behave and even altered the course of history.

When, in the Middle Ages, the precious blue stone lapis lazuli arrived in Europe from the East, blue became the most exotic and mysterious of colours. And it was artists who used it to offer us tantalising glimpses of other worlds beyond our own.

A History of Art in Three Colours – White, Part 1

In the Age of Reason, it was the rediscovery of the white columns and marbles of antiquity that made white the most virtuous of colours. For the flamboyant JJ Wickelmann and the British genius Josiah Wedgewood, white embodied all the Enlightenment values of justice, equality and reason.

Pompeii: The Mystery Of People Frozen In Time

n a one off landmark drama documentary for BBC One, Dr Margaret Mountford presents Pompeii: The Mystery Of The People Frozen In Time.

The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public’s imagination; in 79AD a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination: how did those bodies become frozen in time?

The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum

Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill presents a documentary following the scientific investigation that aims to lift the lid on what life was like in the small Roman town of Herculaneum, moments before it was destroyed by a volcanic erruption. The investigation, based arround the discovery of 12 arched vaults, reveals in great detail the lives of the ill-fated town’s residents, and unique aerial photography gives a behind-the-scenes look at the town from the skies. With contributions from the forensic scientists leading the investigation, the film uncovers the minutiae of daily life in Herculaneum, including not just what residents ate but how they ate it, and why most of the skeletons found on the coast were men and those in the vaults, women and children.

The Secret of El Dorado: The Discovery of Biochar

n 1542, the Spanish Conquistador, Francisco de Orellana ventured along the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon Basin’s great rivers. Hunting a hidden city of gold, his expedition found a network of farms, villages and even huge walled cities. At least that is what he told an eager audience on his return to Spain.

BBC – An Islamic History of Europe

n this 90-minute documentary, Rageh Omaar uncovers the hidden story of Europe’s Islamic past and looks back to a golden age when European civilization was enriched by Islamic learning.

Rageh travels across medieval Muslim Europe to reveal the vibrant civilization that Muslims brought to the West.

This evocative film brings to life a time when emirs and caliphs dominated Spain and Sicily and Islamic scholarship swept into the major cities of Europe.

BBC Simon Schama: A History of Britain, Part 1 (Beginnings)

A study of the history of the British Isles, each of the 15 episodes allows Schama to examine a particular period and tell of its events in his own style. All the programmes are of 59 minutes’ duration and were broadcast over three series, ending 18 June 2002.
The series was produced in conjunction with The History Channel and the executive producer was Martin Davidson. The music was composed by John Harle, whose work was augmented by vocal soloists such as Emma Kirkby and Lucie Skeaping. Schama’s illustrative presentation was aided by readings from actors, including Lindsay Duncan, Michael Kitchen, Christian Rodska, Samuel West and David Threlfall.

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Philology: Introduction to the Significance of Language Analysis

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When you first enter an ancient history or archaeology degree you are introduced to several sets of material evidence. Notably, the archaeology, material evidence, and philological evidence. But the philological side is more often than not rarely mentioned again. This is quite a shame considering some of the most interesting and revealing information comes from the ancient written sources. People generally fall into the trap of ignoring the writing in favour of the archaeology and artefacts and frankly you can’t really blame them because humans are naturally attracted to pretty visual things. I see this every day with the likes and shares on my Facebook page. But philology is all important too and if students can learn even a little about ancient writing and textual criticism, a whole new side to history and analysis opens up to them as it should.

DSCN0428BB - Clay Tablets with Liner B Script
DSCN0428BB – Clay Tablets with Liner B Script (Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis))

Philology is derived from the Greek terms φίλος (love) and λόγος (word, reason) and literally means a ‘love of words’. It is the study of language in literary sources and is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics. Philology is generally associated with Greek and Classical Latin, in which it is termed philologia. The study of philology originated in European Renaissance Humanism in regards to Classical Philology but this has since been combined to include in its definition the study of both European and non-European languages. The idea of philology has been carried through the Greek and Latin literature into the English language around the sixteenth century through the French term philologie meaning also a ‘love of literature’ from the same word roots.

Generally philology has a focus on historical development. It helps establish the authenticity of literary texts and their original form and with this the determination of their meaning. It is a branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development and relationships of a language or languages. This makes it all the more significant to study as language is one of the main building blocks of civilisation.

There are several branches of philological studies that can also be undertaken:

Comparative philology is a branch of philology which analyses the relationship or correspondences between languages. For instance, the commonalities between Latin and Etruscan or further flung languages of Asian or African provinces. It uses pre-determined techniques to discover whether languages hold common ancestors or influences. It uses comparison of grammar and spelling which was first deemed useful in the 19th century and has developed ever since. The study of comparative philology was originally defined by Sir William Jones‘ discovery in 1786 that Sanskrit was related to Greek and German as well as Latin.

Cognitive philology studies written and oral texts in consideration of the human mental processes. It uses science to compare the results of research using psychological and artificial systems.

Reconstruction of the missing Greek text on th...
Reconstruction of the missing Greek text on the Rosetta Stone

Decipherment is another branch of philology which looks at resurrecting dead languages and previously unread texts such as done and achieved by Jean-Francois Champollion in the decipherment of Hieroglyphs with the use of the Rosetta Stone. And more recently by Michael Ventris in the decipherment of Linear B. Decipherment would be key to the understanding of still little understood languages such as Linear A. Decipherment uses known languages, grammatical tools and vocabulary to find and apply comparisons within an unread text. By doing so more of the text can be read gradually as similarities and grammatical forms become better understood. The remaining text can then be filled in through further comparison, analysis, and elimination of incorrect solutions.

Textual philology editing is yet another branch of philology with includes the study of texts and their history in a sense including textual criticism. This branch was created in relation to the long traditions of Biblical studies; in particular with the variations of manuscripts. It looks at the authorship, date and provenance of the text to place it in its historical context and to produce ‘critical editions’ of the texts.

Significant Examples:

The importance of philology is exhibited in its use and achievements. Without philology the bible translation would be even more wrong, trust me read it in the original Greek. We would not be able to translate hieroglyphs, Linear B, Linear A, Sanskrit, any ancient language. Our entire written past would be blank, we would not have the information we have now on mathematics, social structure, philosophy, science, medicine, civilisation, transport, engineering, marketing, accounting, well anything really, knowledge would not have been rediscovered or passed on without the ability to study texts and language. Understand the love of words.

Welcome to GraecoMuse!

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This site is aimed at similar people who are interested in archaeology, ancient history, philology and epigraphy. Interesting stories, archaeological tidbits and blogs will be put up as I partake in digs myself and come across things to share.

This page can also be followed on FACEBOOK and TWITTER for regular discussions and news updates. Enjoy and please comment and share.

Please SCROLL DOWN for the most recent posts. Previous posts can be searched through the search bar or browsed in the archives by month on the right hand side bar.

Archaeology and Artifacts in the National Museum of Beirut

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We talk often about the archaeology and artifacts, excavations and publications, but little do we hear about the museums that house these wonderful pieces of history. A Lebanese friend of mine recently told me of a restoration effort that I had never even heard of before and is an interesting story of what can be achieved even after devastation and vandalism.

The Beirut National Museum has been through a lot in its relatively short history. This museum is the principal museum of archaeology in Lebanon and is one of the most significant Near Eastern museums of archaeology because of its rich collection which is even more impressive because of the trials this collection has suffered. The idea for the museum was conceived in 1919 with its foundations in the collection of the French officer Raymond Weill who was stationed in Lebanon. In 1923 an official founding commitee was set up called the ‘friends of the museum committee’ which was headed by the then Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Fine Arts, Bechara El Khory. Work began with the work of architects Antoine Nahas and Pierre Leprince Ringuet and the building was completed in 1937 in the area of the Beirut Hippodrome.

While the opening was postponed because of the lead-up to WW2, the museum was finally opened in May 1942 by President Alfred Naqqache. It housed objects from prehistory all the way to the 19th century AD including large sarcophagi, mosaics and smaller collections of artifacts including jewelry, coins and ceramics. For the first 30 years of its operation, the museum added extensively to the collections through excavations undertaken under the direction of the Directorate General of Antiquities.

With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, the museum closed its doors in 1975 with the situation in decline and the buildings located on the demarcation line which had divided Beirut. The museum and its antiquities thus became a victim of the raging war. Originally the authorities intended the closure to be temporary but this closure ended up being full term. But instead of allowing the antiquities to fall victim to total destruction, the authorities took action.

The first protection measures were undertaken in the periods of truce which alternated with the destruction. Firstly the smaller finds and most vulnerable objects were removed and placed in storerooms in the museum’s basements and were walled up so that no access was possible to the lower underground floors. The mosaics in the floors of the museum were also covered in a layer of concrete and large unmovable objects such as sarcophagi and statues were protected by sandbags. However, with the situation further worsening, in 1982 these sandbags were replaced by concrete cases which were built around wooden structures that surrounded the monuments. It was measures such as these which eventually saved a vast majority of the artifacts and monuments in the museum.

When cease-fire was announced in 1991 the museum was in a state of extraordinary destruction. Water flooded the basement levels and poured from the roofs and windows. The outer walls were covered in shots and shell-holes and the inner walls were covered in graffiti left by the militia who used the museum as a barracks. The flooded basements left many artifacts beyond repair, and shellfire had left many documents and 45 boxes of archaeological objects destroyed alongside all the lab equipment. In 1992 the first plans to restore the museum were set out by Michel Edde the then Minister of Culture and Higher Education. But the initial proposal was turned down because of the state of the building leaving it in danger of looting. But once the doors and windows were put in with the help of private donations, the concrete barring the basement was removed and the restoration could begin.

The restoration work continued through 1995 to 2000, starting on the building itself and inventory, recording and restoration of objects. This was made possible through the work of the Ministry of Culture, the Directorate General of Antiquities and the National Heritage Foundation. In 1997 the doors reopened to the ground floors but then closed again in 1998 for modifications and modernisation. The museum reopened again in 1999 with over 1300 archaeological artifacts on display. The rehabilitation continued on the underground galleries but already the museum was returning to its former significance especially as a leading collector of Ancient Phoenician objects. The museum is now under the directorship of Anne-Marie Ofeish and retains many of the artifacts which were originally packed away and successfully saved.

Human history is full of wars and conflicts and artifacts and archaeology often suffer in the process which is a great shame. Through efforts such as those undertaken in this case we are lucky to see such wonderful artifacts survive.

For further information:

http://www.beirutnationalmuseum.com/e-histoire.htm

Short Documentary – “Beirut National Museum;Rebirth”

GraecoMuse Turns One

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The Bases of Zanes at Olympia, Greece. Statues...
The Bases of Zanes at Olympia, Greece. Statues of Zeus were erected on these bases, paid for by fines imposed on those who were found to be cheating at the Olympic Games. The names of the athletes were inscribed on the base of each statue to serve as a warning to all.

Hello Everyone! This month this website turns one year old. Thank you everyone for reading and continuing to do so! GraecoMuse has now had over 40,000 views and has 528 subscribers. 🙂

So incase you missed some of the entries and are interested in having a read, here are all the entries for the last year. Hope you all enjoy, keep reading, and most of all learn new things.

Also remember that there is now a facebook page for archaeology and history news and comments. At  https://www.facebook.com/GraecoMuse.

Simple Musings – 26/10/11

Review: Betz, H.D., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago, 1986) – 26/10/11

Confessions of an Archaeologist: Live Free and Dig Hard! – 27/10/11

The (not so) True History – Lucian of Samosata – 29/10/11

Kepler’s Somnium (The Dream) – 30/10/11

Survivor PhD: Close Encounters of the First Kind – 01/11/11

Lost in Translation: It’s all Greek to Us – 07/11/11

Recommended Reading: Blum and Blum, Health and Healing in Rural Greece – 11/11/11

Back to the Future: The Significance of Studying Ancient History – 14/11/11

Relic Hunter: Common Misconceptions of Archaeology – 22/11/11

To Pass Knowledge on to the Younger Generations – 08/12/11

Wilde/Chase Books 1-4: Andy McDermott – 22/12/11

Santa Claus Before Coca Cola – 25/12/11

Felix sit annus novus! Happy New Year! – 31/12/11

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 1 – 11/01/12

English: Ancient Greek helmets.
Ancient Greek helmets

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 2 – 20/01/12

War Minus the Shooting: Ideals behind the Ancient Olympic Games – 28/01/12

Traditional and Historical Origins of Certain Supernatural Ideologies – 29/01/12

Female Heroism in Ancient Greek Literature – 04/02/12

A Shaky Beginning: Parkinson’s Disease in Ancient History – 09/02/12

The Fall of the Ancient Olympics: The Theodosian Code – 17/02/12

Basic Numismatics: A Quick Guide to the Study of Ancient Coinage – 23/02/12

Ancient Scripts of Egypt: An Introduction – 02/03/12

Poetic License: An Introduction to Greek (and Latin) Meter – 08/03/12

Tools of the Trade: Archaeology – 18/03/12

Ammianus Marcellinus: Biographical Record in the Res Gestae – 23/03/12

The Language of Trees: Ogham (Archaic Irish Script) – 26/03/12

Holey Cranium Batman! The Archaeology of Trephination – 10/04/12

In the Beginning: Biblical Creation Myths vs. Others Around the Mediterranean – 14/04/12

Cuneiform: An Introduction to One of the Earliest Scripts – 28/04/12

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1 – 08/05/12

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 2 – 08/05/12

Isthmia: Roman Baths and Muscular Men – 16/05/12

Runic Scripts – Elder and Younger Futhark – 19/05/12Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean – 01/06/12

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 3! – 10/06/12

The Cave of Letters – 20/06/12

From Pole to Pole: The History of Pole Dancing and Fitness – 23/06/12

Hoplitodromos (armoured race); on the right so...
Hoplitodromos (armoured race); on the right some tripods as winning prizes. Side A of an Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 550 BC. From Vulci.

Graecomuse and Parkinson’s Disease – 01/07/12

The Valley of the Dawn – Made-up religion of 32,000 years? – 08/07/12

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 4 – 09/07/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Istanbul pt. 1 – 18/07/12

Archaeological Travel Blog: Istanbul Part 2 – 27/07/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum! – 03/08/12

Archaeology Travel Blog: Ancient Side – 04/08/12

I Have My Eye On You: The Evil Eye in Antiquity – 29/08/12

Curses and Fines on Greek Grave Stele – 06/09/12

Theodora of Justinian: The Protectress of the Poor! – 28/09/12

Neodamodeis – The Freed Helots of Sparta – 07/10/12

A Source-Critical Analysis of the Parable of the Mustard Seed – 08/10/12

Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean

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Late Roman ship wreck
Late Roman ship wreck

Cilicia in Anatolia has an ancient history involving pirates and plunder; though likely no pirates like Johnny Depp. Mores the pity. So let us continue research into the area by having a look at piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean.

The ancient origins of piracy are still seen clearly in the modern world. The term ‘pirate’ has its roots in the Greek word πειράομαι meaning ‘I attempt’ which developed into πειρατής meaning ‘Brigand’ (LSJ: brigandPlb.4.3.8LXX Jb. 16.10(9); esp. piratePlb.4.6.1, Supp.Epigr.3.378B11 (Delph., ii/i B.C.), Str. 14.3.2, Plu.Luc.2,13). πειρατής developed into the Latin term ‘pirata’ and then into the English term ‘pirate’. But while the modern view of pirates is quite romanticised the reality was quite different in the beginning.

Piracy in the ancient Mediterranean stemmed from a necessity based on conditions of the coastlines of Anatolia. The shorelines were unsuitable for agriculture and large populations and the people who did live there were of humble means. These peoples turned to fishing as a primary industry and when this wasn’t enough to support them, the men turned to piracy. As such, piracy was often ambiguously differentiated from trade industries; it was the industry of the ancient Mediterranean. The earliest documents detailing the turn to piracy are in reference to the notorious Sea Peoples who threatened the Aegean and the Mediterranean in around the fourteenth century BC.

Queen Teuta – Queen of the Illyrian Pirates

The most famous of these pirates were the Illyrians and the Tyrrhenians who were often generalised as races of pirates. These were accompanied by the Greek and Roman pirates who appear around Cilicia. The Illyrians raided the Adriatic Sea frequently and caused multiple conflicts in the time of the Roman Republic. The Phoenicians were also known to commit acts of piracy in connection to the Slave trade. With time, the pirates of the Mediterranean became more organised and formed companies derived from their ancient seafaring traditions. The Egyptians often had clashes with these Sea Peoples who they referred to as the ‘Nine Bows’. Some of these pirates were Egyptian subordinates such as escaped Hebrews who were known as the Habiru. The Egyptians also dealt with the Tjeker people from Crete and the earliest known pirate companies, the Lukka and the Sherden. The Lukka and Sherden are mentioned in the Amarna letters detailing the correspondence between the king of Babylon to Pharaoh Amenhotep.

The Hellenistic period saw a rise in piracy following the death of Alexander Great and the issues that followed concerning succession. This created what could be deemed as endemic in Cilicia and the rest of the Southern Anatolia of piracy. During this period there was a popular use of a boat called the Lembus among pirates which was a small and fast ship built to zip in and out of small inlets and attack bigger vessels before disappearing before they could be caught. In the third century BC there was a pirate attack on Olympos in Anatolia which caused much devastating.

The second century BC saw the Roman’s ending the threat of the Illyrians by finally conquering Illyria and making it a Roman province. But piracy continued along the Anatolian coastline into the first century BC. Plutarch tells the story in his Parallel Lives that in 75 BC Julius Caesar was kidnapped for thirty-eight days by Cilician pirates and held in the Dodecanese islet of Pharmacusa to the south west of Anatolia. The Cilician pirates originally are said to have demanded a ransom of twenty talents of gold but this was raised to fifty talents on the word of Caesar himself that he was worth at least Fifty. This ransom was payed and Caesar was released but then he turned on the pirates, pursued and crucified them.

The Roman period saw several changes in the history of Mediterranean piracy starting in 67 BC when Rome’s port of Ostia was attacked and set on fire by pirates and two of its most prominent senators were kidnapped. By the Roman period the general feeling towards pirates was of fear and distrust and this event was the final straw and Rome started to fight seriously against them. This led to piracy being completely outlawed so the pirates could no longer benefit from the slave trade and instead turned to heavy ransoming. An anti-piracy law was proposed by Aulus Gabinius and pirates were declared communes hostes gentium ‘enemies of all mankind’. And the Lex Gabinia granted Pompey the Great unprecedented authority which was a conflicting decision as it allowed Pompey full access to the Roman treasury.

Cilician Ancient Pirate Cove

Pompey the Great organised the raiding of the remaining pirate strongholds in the Mediterranean including in Cilicia, Crete, Illyria and Delos. The most interesting act that Pompey implemented was one of clemency. Though thousands of pirates died in the raids, those that surrendered were given pardon and reward. Reward involves the movement of the pirates from the sea to the land and the establishment of them in honest and innocent courses of life. This was the most successful method of fighting against piracy in the Roman period but piracy never completely died out. In fact, in the first century AD it morphed into an idea close to privateering in some areas.

There were a number of pirate threats in later centuries including the attacks of the Gothic-Herulic fleet which ravaged the coast of the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara around 258 AD. And there were attacks by the Goths around 264 AD also in Galatia and Cappadocia, Cyprus and Crete. The fall of the Roman Empire around the fifth century AD saw a renewal of pirate activity which continued through to the middle ages.

While piracy is generally viewed as malevolent, several ancient texts were in part sympathetic to it and describe it in a way that deemed it almost honourable. Homer for instance makes it a normal occurrence in his Iliad and Odyssey. And Plutarch tells us that piracy became not just an occupation of poor and desperate men but rather a glorious expedition for those of high status seeking further advancement and adventure. It seems in part that the ancients romanticised the concept of piracy as much as the modern mind does.

Note that this website can be followed by pressing the ‘Follow by Email’ option on the right hand side of the screen :)

Additional Reading

Gabbert, Janice J. “Piracy in the Early Hellenistic Period: A Career Open to Talents”, Greece & Rome 33.2) (October 1986)): 156-63.

DeSouza, Philip. Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Semple, Ellen Churchill. ‘”Pirate Coasts of the Mediterranean Sea”. Geographical Review 2.2 (August 1916): 134-51. 135.

Kitchen, Kenneth. “Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt.” Aris & Phillips, 1982: 40-41.

MØller, BjØrn. “Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Naval Strategy.” Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, November 16, 2008. 10.

Woudhuizen, Frederik Christiaan. “The Ethnicity of Sea Peoples.” dissertation; Rotterdam: Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, April 2006. 107.

Dell, Harry J. 1967. The Origin and Nature of Illyrian Piracy. Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte 16, (3) (Jul.): 344-58. 345.

Runic Scripts – Elder and Younger Futhark

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Elder Futhark

The oldest form of runic scripts, Elder Futhark is named for the first six runes in its alphabet, F, U, Th, A,R, and K. It was used in the North West of Europe from around the second to the eighth centuries AD and has been found on numerous artefacts ranging from jewellry and amulets to tools, weapons and the ever-popular runestone. From the sixth century, Younger Futhark began to develop out of the Elder form before it became prominent in scandinavia from the late eighth century. Later still the Anglo-Saxons and the Frisians developed it further into Anglo-Saxon Futhark. Unlike other forms of runes, the skill of reading Elder Futhark was lost overtime until it was rediscovered with its decipherment in 1865 by the Norwegian Sophus Bugge.

Format:

The Elder Futhark alphabet consists of twenty-four runes which are traditionally set out in three groups known as aett. The alphabetic order which gives the script its name is first attested from around 400 AD. The direction of the text tends to vary in the earliest inscriptions but it later appears to settle into running from left to right. There are no word divisions in the majority of inscriptions except in a few cases where a series of dots were used to separate words. The angular shapes that the runes are formed by are probably the result of the original incisions make by writing materials like those made by the reed implements to form cuneiform.

Derivation:

The alphabet itself is believed to be a derivation from Italic alphabets, possibly a form of Etruscan or Raetic or even Latin. There was a popular theory previously that the alphabet was derived from the Greek alphabet via the Gothic. However, the date of early inscriptions predates the Gothic communications with the Greeks and so this theory has been ruled out. It is believed that development of Elder Futhark was composed by a single person or group around the first century AD. The definite purpose for its invention is unknown but epigraphic purposes have been suggested alongside the magical, practical and the playful. Baeksted (1952) suggests use in graffiti.

The runes for F, A, G, T, M, and L appear to be identical to old Italic or Latin alphabetic forms. There is also some correspondence in the runes for U, R, K, H, S, B, and O. The rest of the runes are likely adaptations from other sources or original innovations with the creation of the scripts. The rune names are based on the sounds of the runes themselves but also have a basis in mythology, nature and the environment, daily life and the human condition.

Vimose Comb

Inscriptions:

As mentioned, inscriptions are found on a range of artefacts between the Carpathians and Lappland with the majority of examples hailing from Denmark. The oldest inscription found dates to 160 AD and is found on the Vimose Comb reading simply HARJA. The longest inscription found consists of 200 characters and dates to the eighth century Eggjum stone containing a stanza of Norse poetry.

Younger Futhark

Younger Futhark developed out of Elder Futhark in a transitional phase dating from around 650-800 AD. It is also known as Scandinavian runes and is referred to in the Book of Ballymore as the ‘Ogham of the Scandinavians’. It is a reduced form of Elder Futhark and is found in inscriptions from Scandinavia and Viking Age settlements. Younger Futhark is also known as the alphabet of the Norsemen and is believed to have been developed for use in trade and diplomatic contracts.

Format:

The alphabet consists of only sixteen characters which were in use from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. Its format consisted of distinct sounds and minimal pairs. One key rule in the younger Futhark texts is the avoidance of having the same rune twice in consecutive order.

Younger Futhark
Top Row = Long-Branch Runes
Bottom Row = Short-Twig Runes

Younger Futhark actual includes two scripts. The first is made up of long-branch runes which are believed to have been used for documentation on stone. The second script is made up of short-twig runes which were likely used for everyday uses, for private and official messages on wood. The short-twig forms include nine runes which appear as simplified variants of the long branch runes.

Derivations:

The Younger Futhark developed later into a range of additional scripts including Halsinge Runes, Middle Age Runes, and Latinised Dalecarlian Futhark.

Some Examples of Futhark Inscriptions:

Kalleby Runestone – The Kalleby Runestone dates to the Iron Age and includes a short text. It was found in Sweden in the region of Bohuslan and is believed to have been produced in the fifth century AD. It is an example of Period I Elder Futhark (150-550 AD). It reads:

þrawijan * haitinaz was

Yearning was imposed (on him). / Þrawija’s (monument). (I/he) was commanded/called. / (I/He) was promised to þrawija

Kalleby Runestone

Vadstena Bracteate – The Vadstena Bracteate is a gold C-bracteate found in Sweden dating to around 500AD.  It consists of an image of a four-legged animals with a man’s head above it with a bird separated by a line. This image is commonly associated with the Norse God Odin. The inscription reads:

tuwatuwa; fuþarkgw; hnijïpzs; tbemlŋo[d]

The translation is highly debated

Skåäng Runestone– The Skåäng Runestone is an elaborate stone dating to around the sixth century. It hails from Sweden and contains two inscriptions. The first inscription consists of Younger Futhark while the second is of Elder Futhark. The inscriptions reads:

§A Harja, Leugaz

§B Skammhals ok Olof þau letu gæra mærki þausi æftiR Svæin, faður sinn. Guð hialpi salu hans

§A Harja, Leugaz

§B Skammhals and Ólôf, they had these landmarks made in memory of Sveinn, their father. May God help his soul

Skaang Runestone

Istaby Runestone – The Istaby Runestone is found amoung the Rundata catalog (DR 359) and is a proto-Norse runestone found in Sweden dating to the Vendel era. It is currently located in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. It is an example of Period II Elder Futhark (550-700 AD). It reads:

AP Aftr Hariwulfa. Haþuwulfz HeruwulfizAQ Haþuwulfz Heruwulfiz aftr HariwulfaB wrait runaz þaiaz

AP In memory of Hariwulfar. Haþuwulfar, Heruwulfar’s son,AQ Haþuwulf(a)r, Heruwulfar’s son, in memory of HariwulfarB wrote these runes.

Istaby Runestone

Spearhead of Kovel – The Spearhead of Kovel is the head of a lance found in 1858 in Ukraine. It dates to around the third century AD and measures 15.5cm. The inscription on its blade reads from right to left TILARIDS meaning ‘thither rider’, which is interpreted as either the name of a warrior or of the spear itself. It is believed to be Gothic in origin.

Spearhead

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