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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site



© 2004 Photographer Rocco Ricci copyright The British Museum


The blade and guard of this Kaskara sword are made of steel and the handle of silver. A silk tassel with silver threads woven into it decorates the handle. The blade is in good condition, apart from one horizontal crack. It has maker's marks on one side, one of which contains the remains of a copper-alloy inlay that has been hammered into the groove. An Arabic inscription decorates both faces; one side reads: 'When he meets the enemies everywhere my sword will be the executioner' and the other reads: 'A man of glory and dignity is always the leader of his society'. Conservators from the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum and the British Museum worked together on the sword. A Sudanese conservator cleaned the silver handle and a British Museum conservator cleaned the steel blade, revealing the maker's marks.

The sword belonged to Nasir Mohamed, the Funj sultan from AD 1762 to 1769. The period leading up to AD 1762 was an unsettled time for the Funj dynasty. Despite the continued expansion of their territory, tension had been mounting between the rulers and their warrior aristocracy for several years. Rivals rose unsuccessfully against the Funj ruler Badi III in the early eighteenth century but successfully against his son Unsa III. Unsa's successor Nul (connected to the Funj through his mother) and his son Badi IV ruled peacefully for forty years. This ended when Badi was overthrown in 1762 by Mohammed Abu Likaylik, a rival commander. Despite nominal rule by the Funj sultans (including Nasir Mohamed) until 1821, the dynasty had lost all real authority.