Runology is the study of the runic alphabets, runic inscriptions, runestones, and their history. Runology forms a specialised branch of Germanic linguistics.
The earliest runic inscriptions date from around AD 150. The characters were generally replaced by the Latin alphabet as the cultures that had used runes underwent Christianisation, by approximately AD 700 in central Europe and AD 1100 in Northern Europe. However, the use of runes persisted for specialized purposes in Northern Europe. Until the early 20th century, runes were used in rural Sweden for decorative purposes in Dalarna and on Runic calendars.
The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around AD 150–800), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (AD 400–1100), and the Younger Futhark (AD 800–1100). The Younger Futhark is divided further into the long-branch runes (also called Danish, although they also were used in Norway and Sweden); short-branch or Rök runes (also called Swedish-Norwegian, although they also were used in Denmark); and the stavesyle or Hälsinge runes (staveless runes). The Younger Futhark developed further into the Marcomannic runes, the Medieval runes (AD 1100–1500), and the Dalecarlian runes (around AD 1500–1800).
Historically, the runic alphabet is a derivation of the Old Italic alphabets of antiquity, with the addition of some innovations. Which variant of the Old Italic family in particular gave rise to the runes is uncertain. Suggestions include Raetic, Etruscan, or Old Latin as candidates. At the time, all of these scripts had the same angular letter shapes suited for epigraphy, which would become characteristic of the runes.
The process of transmission of the script is unknown. The oldest inscriptions are found in Denmark and Northern Germany, not near Italy. A "West Germanic hypothesis" suggests transmission via Elbe Germanic groups, while a "Gothic hypothesis" presumes transmission via East Germanic expansion.
The Rune Alphabeth,Rune knowledge and the Casting or throwing of the Rune stones are still important cultural elements on Nilfeheim