From late antiquity through to the early middle ages, people across north-western Europe were inscribing runes on a range of different objects. Once identified and interpreted by experts, runes provide us with invaluable evidence for the early ‘Germanic’ languages – including English, Dutch, German and the Scandinavian languages – and reveal a wealth of information about our early civilisations. Runes employ many techniques from informal scratchings to sophisticated inlaid designs on weapons, or the exquisite relief carvings of the Franks Casket. The task of reading and understanding them involves a good deal of detective-work, calling on expertise from a number of academic disciplines: archaeology, art history, linguistics, and even forensic science. This book tells the story of runes from their mysterious origins, their development as a script, to their use and meaning in the modern world. Illustrated with a range of beautiful objects from jewellery to tools and weapons, Runes will reveal memorials for the dead, business messages, charms and curses, insults and prayers, giving us a glimpse into the languages and cultures of Europeans over a thousand years ago.