Rune stones bore multiple messages

Swedish rune stones conveyed their meanings to their contemporaries in more ways than just through text, new research claims.

Marco Bianchi of Uppsala University likens the stones found dotted around the landscape to "a newspaper spread or a Web page."

Design elements were as important to the carvers of the stones as the texts themselves, Bianchi says, and often stones do not have a "given reading order." This meant that even illiterate or semi-literate people in the 11th century could gather some meaning from the inscriptions.