The paper discusses the aims, methods, and results of a publication of the Greenlandic runic inscriptions. The aim is to describe the tradition of writing in a rural community in the North Atlantic. Due to the exceptional preservation conditions, more inscriptions have been preserved in Greenland than anywhere else. Inscriptions have been found during almost every archaeological excavation, and they occur even at the smallest farms. Until now, around 170 artefacts with runes have been preserved.
Less than 1/3 of the Greenlandic inscriptions make linguistic sense. This is first and foremost a result of the preservation of the objects/inscriptions, secondly a matter of the inscriptions being illegible. Even though many of the inscriptions make no linguistic sense, they have been incorporated in the analysis together with a handful of Latin letter inscriptions. Regardless of their state of preservation, legibility, or outline, they are important contributors to an overview of the tradition of writing.
Inscriptions are placed on all kinds of domestic tools, although tools from the textile production are at the very top of statistics. The language used is the vernacular, and Latin is only used as quotations from the Bible, prayers and so on, indicating that Latin was not used actively in communication. The outline of the runes shows a strong and continuous connection to the Nordic countries throughout the medieval period. The majority of the inscriptions are religious, or they are connected to the religious sphere with crosses or other religious symbols. The tradition of runic writing in Norse Greenland reflects a preservation of a traditional farmer’s set of values, where Christianity played the leading role. The runic inscriptions are a part of the social memory, which was vital for maintain the traditional, Christian and Norse community in that corner of the world.