As promised, here is the next installment of Runes 101. In the last Runes 101 entry, I mentioned that Rune carvings didn't appear until around the year 200, because, prior to that, most Runic carvings were done on wood, bone and antlers, which do not have the endurance of rocks.
Most of the early inscriptions found are simply the owner's name or the name of the person who made whatever the Runes are carved on. Of course, ancient Scandinavians and the Vikings as well, were prone to naming special items, so the names on some things may be the name of the thing itself. Think about it; Thor had Mjöllnir, his hammer; and Odin had Gungnir, his spear.
However, in some instances, where the writing doesn't translate or cannot be translated into actual words, the inscription is thought to be a magical one.
With time, the inscriptions get longer, saying things like, "I, Hlewagastir, son of Holti, made this horn." Likewise, the items on which carvings occurred diversified as well. They show up on items such as coins, brooches, statuettes, weapons, boxes and horns.
Around the year 700, things begin to shift. The first shift comes with the production of bracteates, thin gold medals, which were used as coins, pendants or other ornaments, and imprinted with Runes that include known magical words.
The second shift, which occurs around the same time, is the onset of Runestones - large stones, generally erected in memory of a deceased loved one. Like the smaller Runic carvings, some Runestones included magical words such as 'alu' or variations of it.(More to come on Runestones.)
It was interesting that, as I researched the increase in Runic inscriptions, that the magic associated with them remained a common thread. So, I guess, even though I am trying to talk about the Runes in History, there is no escaping the magic of the Runes from mythology.