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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


Ivory salt cellar with boat

Ivory salt cellar with boat

Height: 30.000 cm
Width: 11.000 cm

AOA 1878,1101.48.a-c

This salt cellar is made of ivory and shows Europeans with long hair, beards and hooked noses. Objects of this type were perhaps the first known examples of 'tourist art' from Africa: luxury items made as souvenirs for foreigners.

Africans along the continent's west coast first encountered Portuguese traders in the mid-fifteenth century. This marked the beginning of regular contact and trade, and the principal interest of the Europeans was the purchase of carved ivory items. Although ivory carvings were traditionally produced only for the royal court in the city of Benin, the ruling Oba (king) allowed decorated salt cellars, horns, spoons and forks to be made for European visitors.