The Rune Typology Project

Computerizing the Runic Inscriptions at the Historic Museum in Bergen

is a project with a grant from the Norwegian Research Council

Runic script comprises a family of related writing systems. Runes have been used from at least the second century C.E. to the 16th century. Branching out from a common system of 24 runes there was developed the Anglo-Saxon/Frisian system on the one hand and the Scandinavian on the other. The Scandinavian 16 runes system was further developed so that at the end there was a more or less one to one correspondence between the runic and the Latin characters.

Due to the changes in the runic writing systems and in the languages involved, runic inscriptions have traditionally been transliterated - or rather transcribed - in different ways depending upon knowledge or assumptions about the relations between the characters and the phonetic system they represent. To facilitate comparison of computerized runic texts we aim to develop a transliteration system that is wholly dependent on the symbols' graphic form with no presumptions about their phonetic value.

To do this we start with inputting the runic inscriptions from excavations in Bergen (about 600 inscriptions) and will later add Swedish and Danish inscriptions. We enter the texts in the traditional transcription(s), photos and drawings, and archeological reference material. From the image data we will define a set of distinctive factors for grouping the graphic forms and this will be the basis for our transliteration system.

A preliminary report from the project (in Norwegian) is available:

A database of Runic inscriptions from Bergen is available at:


--To establish a basis for a typology of runic forms based on graphic criteria
--To develop and evaluate computer based methods for reading difficult and damaged runic inscriptions
--To develop and test computer based methods for studying form variations of runes

As part of this work a database comprising the runic inscriptions at the Historic Museum in Bergen will be built. A special emphasis will be laid upon the runic forms by storing both photos and drawings of the inscriptions and of individual runes.


Project leader:

Espen S. Ore


Anne Haavaldsen

Steering commitee:

Professor Helge J.J. Dyvik
Professor Odd Einar Haugen
Professor Richard H. Pierce
Univ. of Bergen

Contact: or Espen S. Ore, IT, National Library of Norway, Oslo Division, PO. BOX 2674, Solli NO-0203 Oslo. Telephone: (+47) 23 27 61 25, telefax: (+47) 23 27 60 10

Updated Oct. 23, 2002