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Cracking the Runic Code: The Alphabet of Mystery

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0186
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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The Karlevi stone displays one of the earliest poems written in runes, ca. 1000 A.D.

The Vikings and other early societies that preceded the English, Germans, and Scandinavians used what is known at the Runic alphabet as a means of communication. But what are runic characters? Even the word rune is claimed to mean “mystery.”

For more than a millennium, researchers have examined these early inscriptions most often found on stones to understand early cultures and their influences in areas that stretch from Iran to the Americas. Henrik Williams, a professor and chair in the department of Scandinavian languages at Uppsala University, shares the stories behind this still-mysterious alphabet, providing glimpses of the Viking culture as it was nearly 2,000 years ago. In the telling he uncovers stories of Viking warriors, law makers, and autocrats, and trade correspondence, death poems, and cryptograms.

Smithsonian Connections

A runic inscription aided Danish archeologists in identifying a small hammer-shaped amulet as a protective talisman of the Nordic god of war, Thor.