By Henrik Williams
The Viking World, edited by Stefan Brink in collaboration with Neil Price (Routledge, 2008)
Introduction: The correct reading of a single character can change the entire meaning of a runic text and make it older by several hundred years. The runic evidence in itself is of unsurpassed value to our knowledge of life in the Viking Age. Runestone texts and other runic inscriptions constitute the only original sources to this period. Through the first stages of Old Danish, Old Norwegian and Old Swedish we hear a faint echo of the voices of the Vikings, and their documents give us unique insight into intellectual culture, mentalities and society. Runic writing provides evidence of legal practices, naming patterns including the aspect of social history, religious faiths and influence, burial customs, rules for inheritance, and literary tastes. Also as sources to settlement history, gender studies and the early Scandinavian languages the runic data is irreplaceable.