Little is known about the origins of the Runic alphabet, which is traditionally known as futhark after the first six letters. In Old Norse the word rune means ‘letter’, ‘text’ or ‘inscription’. The word also means ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’ in Old Germanic languages and runes had a important role in ritual and magic.
Here are some theories about the origins of runes:
- The alphabet was probably created independently rather than evolving from another alphabet.
- Runic writing was probably first used in southern Europe and was carried north by Germanic tribes.
- The Runic alphabet is thought to have been modelled on the Latin and/or Etruscanalphabet.
The earliest known Runic inscriptions date from the 1st century AD, but the vast majority of Runic inscriptions date from the 11th century. Runic inscriptions have been found throughout Europe from the Balkans to Germany, Scandinavia and the British Isles.
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