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Runes was a system of writing based on angular shapes that could easily be carved into wood or stone. Originated and used mainly by northern tribes of Europe such as Anglo-Saxon and the Norse. One theory says that Runes evolved from Etruscan writing, however other quasi-runic scripts in other parts of the world (Rovasziras and Orkhon Script) exist.
In The Hobbit, Tolkien used Old English runes to display the writing of the Dwarves on the Thrór's Map; his Dwarves however were based mainly on Norse culture and their language is influenced of Semitic languages. The texts of course are modern English, to display the use of Westron of Third Age.
In the history of Arda, a runic script called Cirth was invented by Daeron of Doriath to represent Sindarin words. Runes came to be used widely by races other than the Elves, and especially by the Dwarves.
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