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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


'Hand of Sabazius'

'Hand of Sabazius'

L'Antiquité expliquée

L'Antiquité expliquée

Height: 15.000 cm

GR Bronze 876

Bronze hands of this kind are associated with the cult of the god Sabazius. His cult originated in Phrygia or Thrace and later became popular in the Roman Empire. The Romans associated him with Dionysus, the god of wine.

Scholars believe that 'hands of Sabazius' were placed in shrines or carried on poles in religious processions. Often they are decorated with images such as a serpent, cymbal, pine cone and frog, which are assumed to be religious.

This example was found at Tournai on the Belgian-French border in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. It was later owned by Dr Richard Mead (1673-1754), collector and physician to King George I (reigned 1714-27) and George II (reigned 1727-60). Mead's important collection contained many antiquities and works of art.

At some point a replica of the hand was made and deposited in the Cabinet des Medailles in Paris. There it was engraved and repoduced in Bernard de Montfaucon's L'Antiquité expliquée (1722), an ambitious visual encylopedia of antiquity. Since then the replica in Paris has both been mistaken for the original and, more recently, condemned as a forgery.

On display: Enlightenment: Art