Monday, February 10, 2014

Kiss Me, Ivar; or, Deciphering Coded Viking Runes

There are about 80 medieval Norse inscriptions which use an alternative sort of runes known as jötunvillur. Nobody has been able to read them, so of course there have been lots of wild theories about what these secret messages might say. Odin's prophecies? Political skullduggery?

But now K. Jonas Nordby, a graduate student identified by as a "runologist," has cracked the code.
He found that on a stick from the 13th century two men, Sigurd and Lavrans, carved their names both in code and in standard runes. For the jötunvillur code, one would replace the original runic character with the last sound of the rune name. For example, the rune for ‘f’, pronounced fe, would be turned into an ‘e’, while the rune for ‘k’, pronounced kaun, became ‘n’.

“It’s like solving a puzzle,” said Nordby to the Norwegian website “Gradually I began to see a pattern in what was apparently meaningless combinations of runes.”
And what did the first deciphered message say?
Kiss me.
Sigh. Sometimes the world should be a little more like a Dan Brown novel.

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