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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




Length: 53.500 cm
Diameter: 13.500 cm (pendant)

AOA 1910.11-19.3

Necklaces were important heirlooms in Ainu society and were occasionally put out on display inside houses along with other prized possessions. They were worn by women on traditional formal occasions, but also to pose in front of the cameras of early travellers to Hokkaidō.

These necklaces are most commonly made of blue, black or white glass beads. An additional wooden medallion decorated with metal rosettes is sometimes added to the string, as is the case in this example. The glass beads were mostly obtained from China and mainland Japan and imported to Hokkaidō through the extensive trade links established by the Ainu with distant communities in Sakhalin, Manchuria, and closer neighbouring groups.

The Matsumae clan ruled over Hokkaidō as part of their fiefdom, occupying mainly the coastal areas. The role of the Matsumae retainers and the increased trading power of communities in Sakhalin during the eighteenth and nineteenth century narrowed the commercial exchanges of the Ainu. The prestige for the Ainu of goods from further afield, and of glass beads from China in particular, meant that the Matsumae would claim the beads were of imported origin even when they had been made in Hokkaidō itself.

On display: Rooms 92-94: Japan