Were Runes invented in the Bronze Age

After a debate in the Facebook group “Norse Rune Writing/Translating” (in 2017) I became aware, that some people seem to think that the runes were invented in the Bronze Age. Then asked for sources guy who proposed the very early date could just say “I can’t remember which old dusty book I found it in … I don’t have to show you the road though. you need to do more research .”. So I decided to do a bit of research.

What do the archeologist say:

Lisbeth M. Imer, Runologist at The National Museum of Denmark writes in her book: Danmarks Runesten – En fortælling” 2016 says that the runes were properly created in the environment of the nobility in the second or third century CE (p. 30).

Jørgen Jensen, archeologist at The national Musem of Denmark wrote in his work: “Danmarks Oldtid -Ældre Jernalder“ 2003 write that the oldest inscriptions we know, are from the late second century, but that runes may be a bit elder because Tacitus in about 100 CE that the Germanic people use marks cut in twigs to take omens from. (The original text can also be seen here: Den første skrift )

Professor Lotte Hedager from Oslo University wrote in Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bind 2 Danernes land (1988) that the runes must have been invented around the time of Christ, but that the first inscriptions are from the first century and that the use of runes became more common around year 200. (p 310) (The original text can also be seen here: Futharken – det ældste runealfabet )

So it’s quite clear that the runes were created at the start of the Common Era sometime between year 1 and 200. Why would someone then think that the runes went back to the Bronze Age (1700-500 BC), which are 500 years before the earliest date of the runes?

I tried to google “Bronze Age Runes” and found a couple of pages.

The first one I found was Oswald The Runemakers page. He says: “Rune-like symbols appear as cave markings as early as the late Bronze Age (circa 1300 BC), and they are mentioned in the Bible, but their use in ritual and as an Oracle for consultation must certainly pre-date their use as a system of writing.”. The page seems to be a shop, where “Oswald” is seeling rune sets for divination.

The second I found was History of The Runes from a Wicca group

This last article has references, but they are two articles from 1898 and 1928. There can be good information in old scholarship, but it goes against everything modern schoolers think today, you shouldn’t take it seriously.

Both pages are from people using runes for magic/divination and not as part of serious historical research. When you read the homepages it also becomes clear that it’s not the rune-letters they are referring to. They interpret the figures on the Bronze Age carvings as having the same symbolic meaning as they think the runic letters have. This symbolic meaning is interpreted from the medieval rune poems written down very late (about 1500 years after the end of the Bronze Age).

It is fine in your religious practices to use pictures from Bronze Age Rock Carvings to represent the symbols you get from the Rune Poems, but there is no historical or archeological evidence for runes being from the Bronze Age.

This page was deleted by a mistake at the end of 2019. This blog post is from the old page and has been reposted on the new page. The original article was posted in February 2017.

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