Rune Stones Create a Political Landscape – Towards a Methodology for the Application of Runology to Scandinavian Political History in the Late Viking Age
By Minoru Ozawa
HERSETEC: journal of hermeneutic study and education of textual configuration, Vol.1:1 (2007)
Introduction: Runology, the study of the runic alphabets and inscriptions that were first used in the nd century CE, has flourished since its inception in early modern times, and shown development in both methodology and the analysis of runic material. The two pioneers of runology were a Dane, Ole Worm (1588–1655), and a Swede, Johan Bure (1568–1652), both of whom began to collect runic material in the 16th century. The 19th century witnessed great changes in the methodology for the interpretation of material across a vast range of sciences, and runology also took on new clothes at this time. The “new runology” of the 19th century was considered a part of the emerging field of historical linguistics, which the great German scholars like Jacob Grimm promoted eagerly. Consequently, interest in runology has, until recently, been restricted to the study of various linguistic problems: identifying the birth place of runes and the reason for their emergence; exploring the transition from the elder futhark of letters to the younger one of 16 letters; attempting a phonological reconstruction of the runes etc.
The field of historical science, which also arose in the 19th century, paid little attention either to runic inscriptions as historical sources (with the exception of a few famous examples), or to runology as one of the indispensable tools for analyzing Scandinavian society of the period, at least until recently. Scholars have seemingly been blind to the possibility that the data provided by runic inscriptions, interpreted by runology, might contribute towards historical science.
In this article, then, I would like to offer a new methodology, designed to facilitate the historical analysis of rune stones and so contribute to our understanding of political history in late Viking Age Scandinavia. The chapters are as follows. 1. Rune stones as historical sources 2. General information about Danish rune stones 3. The process of making a rune stone.