added by archaeologs An angular script for carving on wood or stone developed by Germanic peoples (northern Germany, Scandinavia) around the 4th century AD through contact with Mediterranean alphabets. The early alphabet, with 24 letters divided into three groups of eight, was mainly used for short commemorative or magic protective formulae. A simplified alphabet of 16 characters was developed in Scandinavia from the 9th century, and this was used for more elaborate inscriptions, continuing for a long period in the Middle Ages. The etymology of the word means 'secret', 'mystery', 'counsel', and 'charm'. It is first recorded in Denmark and Schleswig and spread widely across northern Europe. The voyages of the Vikings later carried it as far as Russian and Iceland, where it remained in use into the Middle Ages. There are no substantiated runic inscription from the New World. A rune stone is a freestanding memorial stone with an inscription in runes. Runes are also associated with ceremonial artifacts, but also seen as graffiti.