The non-enigmatic runes of the Kensington stone

[…] The old tradition of using runes in everyday life in Scandinavia came to an end at the end of the Middle Ages. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were revivals of runic script and in the province of Dalecarlia the use of these in part new runes, the Dalecarlian runes (dalrunor) thrived — we know of circa 350 runic inscriptions from Dalecarlia.

Most of these Dalecarlian inscriptions are very short telling us the name or giving us the initials of the name of the person who made the wooden bowl or dish and when it was made. Sometime the inscription is a quotation of a prayer or a hymn. There was an early antiquarian revival too.

Runic inscriptions or the runic alphabet was printed in learned books, such as Historia degentibus septentrionalibus (1555) by Olaus Magnus. From the end of the 16th century there have always been enthusiasts who were acquainted with these scholarly runic inscriptions or alphabets printed in books. They liked to inscribe runes in manuscripts, finger rings, knives, drinking-horns, wooden objects like rune-calendars and other artefacts. Sometimes they even manufactured rune-stones to create the feeling of a glorious past.

The rune forms in these late inscriptions diverged very little or not at all from those in the runic monuments of the Viking Age or from the runes in the books of the learned antiquarians. But the runes in the 18th and 19th centuries sometimes differed.

A runic character in these post-reformation inscriptions could now adopt different varieties of form (allographs) without affecting the underlying identity of the runic character (grapheme). At the same time the runes were used in new contexts, for example in a diary kept by a peasant. And in the 19th century as a matter of fact even presentations of the runic alphabet were printed in popular surveys of different scripts.

The Kensington runes are to be seen in these circumstances and three examples of inscriptions from the 18th and 19th century prove that the Kensington runes do not belong to the Middle Ages, but to the 19th century, if anything.[…]

The Larsson rune rows

A few years ago the grandchildren of Edward Larsson from the Pernils farm in the village of Holscker in the Dala-Floda parish in Daelcarlia donated their grandfather's collection of papers, books, letters and farm documents to the Archives of Dialect, Place-names and Folklore in Umeå. Larsson was a tailor by profession and had travelled around a lot to receive his training from master tailors. He was a musician too and most of the papers in the collection are hand-written music scores. When he died 1950 the collection was inherited by his son and later by his grandchildren.

The archive curator Staffan Lundmark found two sheets of paper containing various scripts and showed them to Tryggve Sköld. Sköld, a retired professor, who published them in the periodical DAUM-KATA 2003 ( ttal3.pdf). The papers were signed by Edward Larsson 1883 and 1885 - for the numerals he used the same pentadic system as in the Kensington inscription!

Both papers contain a full runic alphabet consisting of 27 symbols and 10 pentadic numbers. Some of the runic forms (a, g, k, v, ä, ö) of the Larsson rune alphabet are identical to or intimately related to those of the Kensington.

[…] This runic script probably developed in the 18th and 19th century and it must have been familiar to the Swedish emigrant who carved the Kensington inscription in the 19th century. […]

Source: Helmer Gustavson, "The non-enigmatic runes of the Kensington stone," Viking Heritage Magazine, March 31, 2004.

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