Staveless runes
Staveless runes were the climax of the simplification process in the evolution of runic alphabet
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

s that had started when the Elder Futhark
Elder Futhark
The Elder Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabet, used by Germanic tribes for Northwest Germanic and Migration period Germanic dialects of the 2nd to 8th centuries for inscriptions on artifacts such as jewellery, amulets, tools, weapons and runestones...

 was superseded by the Younger Futhark
Younger Futhark
The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a runic alphabet, a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, consisting of only 16 characters, in use from ca. 800 CE...

. In order to create the staveless runes, vertical marks (or staves) were dropped from individual letters (or runes). The name "staveless" is not entirely accurate, since the i
*Isaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the i-rune , meaning "ice". In the Younger Futhark it is called Iss in Icelandic and isa in Old Norse. As rune of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc, it is called is....

rune consists of a whole stave and the f
Fe (rune)
The Fe rune represents the f-sound in the Younger Futhark and Futhorc alphabets. Its name means " wealth", cognate to English fee with the original meaning of "sheep" or "cattle" .The rune derives from the unattested but reconstructed Proto-Germanic...

, þ
The Germanic rune is called Thurs in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems.-Rune poems:The Germanic rune ᚦ is mentioned in three rune poems:- Usage :...

, k
The k-rune is called Kaun in both the Norwegian and Icelandic rune poems, meaning "ulcer". The reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Kaunan. It is also known as Kenaz , based on its Anglo-Saxon name.The Elder Futhark shape is likely directly based on Old Italic c / Latin C...

and the s
Sól or Sunna is the Sun personified in Germanic mythology. One of the two Old High German Merseburg Incantations, written in the 9th or 10th century CE, attests that Sunna is the sister of Sinthgunt...

runes consist of shortened main staves.

Since their rediscovery on runestones at Hälsingland
' is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. It borders to Gästrikland, Dalarna, Härjedalen, Medelpad and to the Gulf of Bothnia...

 in the 17th century, staveless runes have also been known as the Hälsinge runes. This label is, however, misleading since staveless runes also appear in Medelpad
' is a historical province or landskap in the north of Sweden. It borders to Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Ångermanland and the Gulf of Bothnia....

, Södermanland
', sometimes referred to under its Latin form Sudermannia or Sudermania, is a historical province or landskap on the south eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Östergötland, Närke, Västmanland and Uppland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea.In Swedish, the province name is...

, and the Norwegian
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 town of Bergen
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway with a population of as of , . Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland county. Greater Bergen or Bergen Metropolitan Area as defined by Statistics Norway, has a population of as of , ....



The runes may look hard to recognize, but in fact it is only the main staves that are generally missing, and if a main stave is added it is apparent that the a, n
Abdul Rahman Pazhwak was an Afghan poet and diplomat. He was educated in Afghanistan and started out his career as a journalist, but eventually joined the foreign ministry. During the 1950s he became ambassador to the United Nations, and served as president of the UN General Assembly from 1966 to...

, t
Tiwaz rune
The t-rune is named after Týr, and was identified with this god. The reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Tîwaz or *Teiwaz.-Rune poems:Tiwaz is mentioned in all three rune poems...

, l
*Laguz or *Laukaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the l-rune , *laguz meaning "water" or "lake" and *laukaz meaning "leek". In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, it is called lagu "ocean". In the Younger Futhark, the rune is called lögr "waterfall" in Icelandic and logr "water" in Norse.The...

and s runes are identical to those in the Younger Futhark
Younger Futhark
The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a runic alphabet, a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, consisting of only 16 characters, in use from ca. 800 CE...

. No ã
Ansuz rune
The a-rune , Younger Futhark was probably called *ansuz in Proto-Germanic, to which the Norse name Æsir is attributed.The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a , like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph....

rune has been found in the inscriptions, but since the staveless runes indicate pairings, it has been postulated that it was a mirrored form of the b
*Berkanan is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the b rune , meaning "birch". In the Younger Futhark it is called Bjarken in the Icelandic rune poem and Bjarkan in the Norwegian rune poem. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called beorc...



It appears from the title page of Johannes Bureus
Johannes Bureus
Johannes Thomae Bureus Agrivillensis was a Swedish antiquarian, polymath and mystic. He was royal librarian, tutor, and adviser of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden....

' runic primer
Runa ABC
The Runa ABC of Johannes Bureus was the first Swedish alphabet book and its purpose was to teach the runic alphabet in 17th century Sweden.The runology pioneer Johannes Bureus was a religious Christian, but he also thought that the Christian influence had replaced the runic alphabet with the Latin...

 that Bureus had some understanding of the staveless runes in 1611, but that this has been denied by virtually all runologists. Since Bureus had not succeeded in deciphering the runes, a large poster with the image of two runestones with staveless runes was published in 1624 together with the announcement of a royal reward for the one who could decipher them. It would, however, take half a century before someone found the solution.

At the end of the 1660s, Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher was a 17th century German Jesuit scholar who published around 40 works, most notably in the fields of oriental studies, geology, and medicine...

, who was an interpreter of hieroglyphs
Hieroglyph or hieroglyphics may refer to:*Anatolian hieroglyphs*Chinese character*Cretan hieroglyphs*Cursive hieroglyphs*Dongba script*Egyptian hieroglyphs*Hieroglyphic Luwian*Mayan hieroglyphs...

, studied the runes, but he arrived at the conclusion that the staveless runes were nothing but meaningless scribbles and that the stones had been erected in order to protect against snakes.

The verdict of the hieroglyph expert was too much for the mathematician, antiquarian and Hälsingland native Magnus Celsius
Magnus Celsius
Magnus Celsius was a Swedish astronomer and mathematician, decipherer of the staveless runes. His grandson was Anders Celsius.He was the father of Olof Celsius, Nils Celsius and Johan Celsius....

. Celsius departed for Hälsingland in the early 1670s and made meticulous drawings of the runestones. When he was back in Stockholm, he worked hard on deciphering the runes but had to give up. Eventually he tried to add staves to the runes and suddenly deciphered some of the staveless runes. By 1674, he had deciphered all the runes except for the R
The Algiz is part of the ancient Nordic and Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, often equated to the modern day z, however was traditionally pronounced yr. The letter has come to symbolize many neo-pagan religions and is often worn as a pendant...

rune, which he interpreted as a distinguishing mark.

The following year, Celsius made a speech at Uppsala University
Uppsala University
Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. It consistently ranks among the best universities in Northern Europe in international rankings and is generally considered one of the most prestigious institutions of...

, where he made his discovery public. He started the process of publishing his discovery shortly after making the speech but died suddenly before the printing was finished. However, the news of the discovery spread quickly among scholars and it was used as the basis of the claim that stenography had originated in Sweden. It would be Olof Celsius
Olof Celsius
Olof Celsius was a Swedish botanist, philologist and clergyman, He was a professor at Uppsala University, Sweden. Celsius was a mentor of the botanist and scientist Carolus Linnaeus...

 who finally published his father's discovery.


The following runestones are some of those that feature staveless runes:
  • Österberga stone
  • Skarpåker stone
    Skarpåker Stone
    The Skarpåker Stone, designated by Rundata as Sö 154, is a Viking Age memorial runestone that was originally located in Skarpåker, Nyköping, Sörmland, Sweden, and which dates to the early 11th century.-Description:...

  • Sö 137 at Aspa bro
  • Spånga stone
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