An alphabet of runes was common to all Germanic peoples of the north long before the Viking Age began. It is called the futhark, after the first six signs in the alphabet. Its origins are obscure but the Vikings themselves believed that the god Odin had invented it (or rather, stolen it).
Many thousands of runic inscriptions have been found all over the Viking world and in the farawav places they visited. They are mostly carved on stone but are also found on objects of metal, bone, horn and wood. The inscriptions contain a wealth of information and tell us a little about how the Vikings saw themselves.
Most inscriptions commemorate a dead person but, in passing, they also provide information about many, other matters, significant and mundane: the creation of administrative centres and communications, land ownership, voyages overseas, family relationships, individual wealth, status or talents, even the beauty of women.
Within Scandinavia, Sweden has by far the richest treasure of runic inscriptions, some 3,000 in all. Many of these runestones line the sides of eleventh century roads and mark the sites of bridges and meeting places. Denmark has about 250 Viking Age runestones and Norway about 50, though there are also many examples from later than the Viking Age, for instance, from medieval archaeological deposits in Bergen.
Only a few later examples are known from Greenland and Iceland. Inscriptions are more common in the British Isles, especially on the Isle of Man where many rune-inscribed crosses have been found, and on the Orkney Islands. The Scandinavians also left runic inscriptions as testament to their remarkable, far-flung travels in Russia and Byzantine Europe: for instance, an inscription at Berezanj on the Black Sea records the death of one of a pair of trading partners, and runic graffiti was carved on the shoulders of a massive marble lion in Piraeus, the sea port of Athens
The Scandinavians revered poetry known as skaldic verse which, though often bloodthirsty in content, portrays a people with an heroic and sophisticated literature.
A Viking verse by the great teath-century Icelandic poet, Egil Skallagrimsson, is translated:
I’ve been with sword and,spear
slippery with bright blood
where kites wheeled. And how well
we violent Vikings clashed!
Redflames ate up men’s roofs,
raging we killed and killed;
and skewered bodies sprawled
sleepy in town gateways.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Runic Writing" https://englishhistory.net/vikings/runic-writing/, January 13, 2022