There are about 3,000 runestones among the c. 6,000 runic inscriptions in Scandinavia. There are also runestones in other parts of the world as the tradition of raising runestones followed the Norsemen wherever they went, from the Isle of Man (Manx Runestones) in the west to the Black Sea in the east (Berezan' Runestone), and from Jämtland in the north to Schleswig in the south.
The runestones are unevenly distributed in Scandinavia: Denmark has 250 runestones, Norway has 50 while Iceland has none. Sweden has as many as between 1,700 and 2,500 depending on definition. The Swedish district of Uppland has the highest concentration with as many as 1,196 inscriptions in stone, whereas Södermanland is second with 391.
Outside of Scandinavia, the Isle of Man stands out with its 30 runestones from the 9th century and early 11th century. Scattered runestones have also been found in England, Ireland, Scotland and the Faroe Islands. With the exception of the runestone on Berezan', there are no runestones in Eastern Europe, which probably is due to a lack of available stones and the fact that the local population probably did not treat the foreigners' stones with much respect.
Runestones were placed on selected spots in the landscape, such as assembly locations, roads, bridge constructions, and fords. In medieval churches, there are often runestones that have been inserted as construction material, and it is debated whether they were originally part of the church location or had been moved there. In southern Scania, runestones can be tied to large estates that also had churches constructed on their land. In the Mälaren Valley, the runestones appear to be placed so that they mark essential parts of the domains of an estate, such as courtyard, grave field, and borders to neighbouring estates. Runestones usually appear as single monuments and more rarely as pairs. In some cases, they are part of larger monuments together with other raised stones.
However, although scholars know where 95% of all runestones were discovered, only c. 40% were discovered in their original location. The remainder have been found in churches, roads, bridges, graves, farms, and water routes. On the other hand scholars agree that the stones were not moved very far from their original sites.
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