What are Runes?

"The Elder Futhark (or Elder Futhark, Older Futhark, Old Futhark) is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic tribes for the northwestern and Migration period Germanic dialects. Its inscriptions are found on artifacts (including jewellery, amulets, tools, weapons, and rune-stones) from the 2nd to 8th centuries."
(from Wikipedia)