The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2017-2018, 140-168

Runic Writing in the Periphery of the Scandinavian World. Part 1: the Islands of the North Atlantic

E. A. Melnikova

The study of runic inscriptions produced up to the end of the fifteenth century
on the islands of the North Atlantic colonized by Scandinavians in the ninth and
tenth centuries showed that the spread of runic literacy and its wide usage started
in the twelfth century only. С. 18 inscriptions are known to be dated to the Viking
Age. As a result of tight economical, political and cultural connections with
Norway. these are Norwegian medieval practices of the usage of runes that were
adopted on the islands. Like in Norway, runes were used to make inscriptions
on grave-stones (especially in Iceland), on utensils, on wooden sticks and plates.
Like in Norway, the vernacular and Latin languages were mixed in the inscriptions
especially in those containing prayers or on grave-stones. Changes in the
graphics of runes and the modification of the rune row reflect similar phenomena
in Norway. At the same time the usage of runic literacy in each region has its own
peculiarities. It spread widest in Greenland where c. 160 objects with inscriptions,
bind-runes and individual runes have been found. The predominant number of
inscriptions represents different forms of prayers. In Iceland one third of the inscriptions
were made on grave-stones. In the Orkney most of the inscriptions are
made on memorial stones or on the walls of the Maeshowe cairn. The extinction
of runic literacy on the islands is synchronous with its decay in Norway.

literacy, runic writing, Scandinavia, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe, the Shetlands, the Orkney

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