Mystery nosed out ... Fragment of wooden stick with runic inscription on one side found at the old wharf in Bergen. The text is written using a code where the number of 'hairs' in the beards of each face indicate the position of the character in the runic alphabet. Museum of cultural history, University of Oslo. Aslak Liestol Photograph: Aslak Liestol/Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo
An ancient Norse code which has been puzzling experts for years has been cracked by a Norwegian runologist - to discover the Viking equivalent of playful text messages.
The mysterious jötunvillur code, which dates to 12th or 13th-century Scandinavia, has been unravelled by K Jonas Nordby from the University of Oslo, after he studied a 13th-century stick on which two men, Sigurd and Lavrans, had carved their name in both code and in standard runes. The jötunvillur code is found on only nine inscriptions, from different parts of Scandinavia, and has never been interpreted before.