This alphabet uses only sixteen runes, and in many cases one symbol is used to represent many sounds.
Even when dealing with the Younger Futhark, there are several related but slightly different alphabets that vary by place and time. These can be roughly divided into two main types: the first is the "long-branch" or normal Younger Futhark, which are sometimes referred to as the "Danish runes". There is also a variant known as the "short-twig runes" in which the forms are simpler, also called the "Norwegian-Swedish runes".
"Shorthand" versions of these futharks appeared, as did hybrid variants. What exact form was used depended on exactly what date one is looking at, and what region. By the Middle Ages, as the language changed and so did the runic alphabet. Gradually symbols were changed, and new symbols adopted, resulting in a 16-rune alphabet plus extensions.
Most of the surviving Viking Age runic inscriptions come from rune-stones, which were erected as grave markers, memorials, and cenotaphs most often. By the middle ages in Scandinavia, runes came to be used occasionally to record Latin inscriptions (approximately 10% of all medieval runic inscriptions are Latin) and these usually invocations of saints or prayers.
Occasionally runes are found on various wooden items such as crosses. In Bergen, Norway, 110 "ownership tags" have been found, shaped in many cases so that they can be easily attached to goods or merchandise. Several runic "business memos" have also been discovered in Bergen, usually on a wooden stick which has been whittled flat on at least one side, with the most usual type having four flat sides for inscription. Since the runes occurred in a fixed order, carpenters and construction workers used them to label wooden roof beams for churches so that they went up in the correct order.
The oldest runes discovered in Norway date from 400 AD. They were based upon the 24 - rune Elder Futhark of Germanic origin. Two of the runes in the Elder Futhark, Pertra and Eoh, have never been found in any Norwegian rune text.
From 550 AD to 700 AD there was a transition period between the older 24-rune Futhark and the newer 16-rune Futharks. By the end of this period, the 24-rune Futhark went completely out of use and the 16-rune Futharks had prevailed.
Then, about 900 AD, the Shorttwiggs-runes were introduced from Sweden. Shortly thereafter, from 1000 AD, Futharks with more than 16 runes became more prevalent, as these were more consistent with the Latin alphabet. These types of runes were used in Norway up to 1800 AD.
After the end of the Viking period the runes became more and more in common use by ordinary people. A lot of rune inscriptions from the end of 1100's, 1200's and 1300's, the so-called town runes, show that it was not only the professional scribes who wrote runes. Even the ordinary people had learned the art of reading and writing runes because runes were the most accessible tool for them and were useful in their mercantile trading.
"Training sticks" have been found which were used to learn runes, showing that more people could write and read than one had previously believed. It is interesting that knowledge of runes