Kensington Runestone Real?

topic posted Wed, January 12, 2005 - 2:40 PM by  Unsubscribed
Revealing a rune stone's secrets

In 1898, a Swedish immigrant farmer was clearing his land in west-central Minnesota, near Kensington, when he found a tombstone-shaped stone that was covered with unintelligible carved figures, resembling old Scandinavian runes. Some claim that the rune-covered stone is a hoax perpetrated by the farmer, while others claim that the rune stone is the greatest American artifact: If legitimate, it would mean that Scandinavians reached the interior of North America more than 130 years before Columbus. New geologic evidence may lend some credibility to that claim.

Geologists are trying to determine whether this stone, found in 1898 and covered with ancient Swedish runes telling a tale of a massacre of a band of Scandinavian explorers in Minnesota in 1362, is authentic. Courtesy of Scott Wolter.

Runes are characters from an old Scandinavian alphabet, widely used from the third to the 13th centuries and continuing in lesser usage throughout the next centuries. The Kensington rune stone's inscription, dated 1362, tells of a band of Scandinavians moored near a lake in Minnesota, who returned to camp after a day of fishing to find their comrades massacred, says Richard Nielsen, an engineer and expert on the Kensington rune stone.

When the farmer, Olaf Ohman, found the stone in 1898, many of the words and runes were unknown to linguistics experts, Nielsen says. Furthermore, a fair number of these words are part of the modern Swedish language, which led to suggestions that the farmer carved the inscription. Recent discoveries in Sweden, however, show that all of the words represented by runes on the stone can be found in Old Swedish and were in use in the 1300s, Nielsen says. It is highly unlikely, he says, that a 19th century farmer would know these words were authentic, if linguistics experts did not even know that until recently.

Still, the exact date of the stone has been in question. So in 2000, the Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minn., asked Scott Wolter, a geologist and president of American Petrographic Services in St. Paul, to perform "an autopsy" on the 202-pound rock to determine when the runes were carved.

A metamorphosed greywacke — a dark-colored, coarse-grained sandstone with abundant mica, quartz, feldspar and rock fragments — the stone is probably at least 1.85 billion years old, says Dick Ojakangas, a geologist at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, who worked with Wolter on the geologic study. Deep glacial striations run roughly parallel down the backside of the stone — the one side that isn't covered in runes — indicating that it was likely plucked from its original bedrock location by glaciers.

For comparison, Wolter sampled inscribed tombstones in Hallowell, Maine, that were subject to similar weathering conditions as the Kensington rune stone. He found that on the surface of the slate tombstones that were older than 200 years, all the biotite mica had weathered out, whereas younger tombstones still had remnant mica grains. Turns out that the carved parts of the Kensington rune stone also showed no signs of mica, Wolter says. Thus, he concluded that the Kensington inscription had to be from the year 1700 or earlier (it has been in museums since it was found, so it hasn't substantially weathered in the past 100 years).

A remaining problem, Wolter recognizes, is that he can only prove that Ohman did not carve the inscription; he has no evidence that it specifically dates to 1362. Still, Wolter believes that the stone is authentic. The facts — the linguistics, historic record and geologic details — "all line up,” he says.

The geologic studies "are certainly interesting and add to the complete picture, but there isn't a lot of proof yet," says William Fitzhugh, curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's arctic collections.

Smithsonian geologist Sorena Sorensen also remains unconvinced. "Resolving ages a few hundred years apart is very difficult," she says. "I don't think the technology is there yet to be able to differentiate 19th century from 14th century artifacts based solely on weathering rates."

Others aren't quite as skeptical: "As a very interested observer, I don't think it has been proven that the rune stone is a fake. Several lines of evidence indicate that it may be authentic," Ojakangas says. But, he adds, more evidence will certainly be needed before its authenticity will be widely accepted.

-Megan Sever
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  • Unsu...

    Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

    Wed, January 12, 2005 - 5:19 PM
    That's really interesting, thanks. I think the stone, if real, will tell us a lot about the extent of Viking exploration. I think that things like this will force people to rewrite the history books (maybe even mention the vikings a little more... if at all)
    • Unsu...

      Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

      Thu, January 13, 2005 - 8:59 AM
      Considering how much reticence there was to acknowledge their Newfoundland (Vinland) settlements anything helps. The Columbus-first faction has deep roots in America...
      • Unsu...

        Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

        Sun, April 3, 2005 - 10:56 PM
        Im not sure if its real or not but I do think the Vikings must have landed in the Northeast of the continent.They have found there lodges and tools for crying out loud but there are still people saying it isnt so.
        • Unsu...

          Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

          Mon, April 4, 2005 - 11:09 AM
          They absolutely did: that's been acknowledged after the discovery of the L'Anse Aux Meadows site in Newfoundland, Canada.

          However, history tells that the Norse exploration of North America was short lived and coastal... if the Kensington Runestone *were* real, it would require serious corrections to popular history.
          • Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

            Tue, April 12, 2005 - 12:46 PM
            The Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minn. has a cool 150 foot tall tackily painted statue of a Viking in front of it. We used to visit my mothers parents there all the time. That statue has played big influence in my interest in Vikings. I think the museum is there less as a proof to the Kensington Runestone but more as homage to the large influx of Scandinavian culture in that area. So even if the stone isn't real, it lends to the idea the Viking culture can also stand the test of time.

            My personal opinion is that it was brought there later on as a family heirloom. It's a little to complex to have been written in the wild (esp. if being attacked). It would be more graffiti like if it were in the context of the story. Anyone who’s ever done rune carving into a stone can attest to this.

            • Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

              Tue, April 12, 2005 - 7:09 PM
              This article has probably more of an impact on the possibility of Viking presence and culture share than the Kensington Runestone:


              It states the possibility while debating it enough to not making it too matter-of-fact.
              • Unsu...

                Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

                Wed, April 13, 2005 - 12:50 PM
                Thanks for the article link, Vhilm- gonna print it and read on the bus later.

                It may just be in vogue right now, but it seems there's a lot of attempts at revising the history of North American exploration- like the one about the Chinese in Mexico.
                • Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

                  Sat, April 16, 2005 - 9:27 AM
                  I have been reading a book called The Kensington Runestone, Approaching a Research Question Holistically by Alice Beck Kehoe.
                  It is very informative. Basically, the stone was judged a hoax because some linguists decided that it didn't conform to standard texts of the time. They did not take into account regional dialects and the fact that it would have been carved by a less educated person. To this day, scientists ignore the geologically evidence. I am not saying that the stone is 100% true, but it has not been falsified either.
                  I believe 'popular history' of pre-Columbian America absolutely has to be re-written as well.
                  Also, I don't know anything about Chinese in Mexico, but there are many similarities between Japanese Buddhists and the Zuni.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

                    Mon, April 18, 2005 - 11:30 AM
                    re: Chinese discovery of Mexico-

                    • Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

                      Wed, April 20, 2005 - 3:28 AM
                      Thanks for the link!
                      • Unsu...

                        Re: Kensington Runestone Real?

                        Thu, April 21, 2005 - 11:47 AM
                        My pleasure!

                        Here's another article on the Chinese/pre-Columbian Americas connection:

                        • Unsu...

                          Minnesota's "DaVinci Code"

                          Mon, June 6, 2005 - 12:00 PM
                          Unlocking Minnesota's 'DaVinci Code'

                          May 24, 2005 10:15 am US/Central

                          Kensington, Minn. (WCCO) Researchers have found new evidence of a secret code concealed on the Kensington Runestone, one of the most controversial pieces of Minnesota history.

                          The rock was found near Alexandria, Minn. a century ago. It bears an inscription that places Norwegians here in 1362.

                          Were Vikings exploring our land more than 100 years before Columbus? Or is the Kensington Runestone an elaborate hoax?

                          New research suggests the rune stone is genuine, and a hidden code can prove it.

                          "Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on an exploration journey ... 10 men red with blood and dead ... 14 days journey from this island ... year 1362."

                          The Kensington Runestone's carved words have haunted the Ohman family for more than 100 years.

                          Olof Ohman has been accused of authoring Minnesota's most famous fraud. The farmer claimed he found the stone buried under a tree in 1898.

                          Critics believe the language on the rune stone is too modern and that some of the runes are made up. They say Ohman carved it himself to fool the learned.

                          The Ohman family's faith in the stone has never wavered, however.

                          "I just never had any doubt," said grandson Darwin Ohman. "I mean, I was very emphatic about it. Absolutely it's real. There's no doubt."

                          "(Critics are) calling (Olof Ohman) a liar," Minnesota geologist Scott Wolter said. "If this is a hoax, he lied to his two sons, he lied to his family, lied to his neighbors and friends and lied to the world."

                          Wolter and Texas engineer Dick Nielsen believe hidden secrets are carved in the Kensington Runestone.

                          "It changes history in a big way," Wolter said.

                          In 2000, Wolter performed one of the very few geological studies on the Kensington Runestone. He said the breakdown of minerals in the inscription shows the carving is at least 200 years old, placing it before Olof Ohman's time.

                          Wolter's findings support the first geological study that also found the stone to be genuine, which was performed in 1910.

                          "In my mind, the geology settled it once and for all," Wolter said.

                          Linguistic experts believe some of the stone's runes are made up, but Nielsen said he found one of the disputed runes in a Swedish rune document dating back to the 14th century.

                          "If they were wrong about that, what else were they wrong about?" Wolter said.

                          Wolter documented every individual rune on the stone with a microscope.

                          "I started finding things that I didn't expect," Wolter said.

                          Wolter discovered a dot inside each of four R-shaped runes.

                          "These are intentional, and they mean something," Wolter said.

                          Wolter and Nielsen scoured rune catalogs and found the dotted R's.

                          "It's an extremely rare rune that only appeared during medieval times," Wolter said. "This absolutely fingerprints it to the 14th century. This is linguistic proof this is medieval. Period."

                          Wolter and Nielsen traced the dotted R to rune-covered graves inside ancient churches on the island of Gotland off the coast of Sweden.

                          "The next thing that happened is, we started finding on these grave slabs these very interesting crosses," Wolter said.

                          Templar crosses are the symbol of a religious order of knights formed during the Crusades and persecuted by the Catholic Church in the 1300s.

                          "This was the genesis of their secret societies, secret codes, secret symbols, secret signs -- all this stuff," Wolter said. "If they carved the rune stone, why did they come here? And why did they carve this thing?"

                          Wolter has uncovered new evidence that has taken his research in a very different direction. He now believes the words on the stone may not be the record of the death of 10 men, but instead a secret code concealing the true purpose of the stone.

                          Linguists single out two runes representing the letters L and U as evidence Olof Ohman carved the stone. They are crossed, and linguists say they should not be. A third rune has a punch at the end of one line.

                          "Maybe they're saying, 'Pay attention to me,'" Wolter said.

                          Each rune on the stone has a numerical value. Wolter and Nielsen took the three marked runes and plotted them on a medieval dating system called the Easter Table.

                          When we plotted these three things we got a year: 1362," Wolter said. "It was like, oh my God, is this an accident? Is this a coincidence? I don't think so.

                          "We think, if it’s the Templars, they confirmed the date which is on the stone -- 1362 -- by using a code in the inscription."

                          But why would Templars come to America, carve this stone and code the date?

                          "If it's the Templars, who were under religious persecution at the time, that would be a pretty good reason to come over here," Wolter said. "Maybe the rune stone is a land claim.

                          "I'm sure a lot of people are going to roll their eyes and say, 'Oh, it's "The DaVinci Code,"' and if they do, they do. This is the evidence, this is who was there, this is what the grave slabs tell us. It is what it is."

                          Wolter and Nielsen said they expected their work to be criticized. The developments in their research are too recent to have been reviewed by other rune stone experts.

                          The pair are preparing a book, "The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence," for future publication.

                          • Re: Minnesota's "DaVinci Code"

                            Tue, June 7, 2005 - 9:21 AM
                            I have a book called 'Ancient Norse Messages on American Stones' by O.G. Landsverk, Ph.D. that goes into the supposed cryptograms within the messages. It was published in 1969. This sort of research is not new. While I'm happy that they found similar runes on a 14th c. stone in Gotland, the whole business of Templars and secret codes is only harmful to its case. Extraordinary claims call for extraordinary evidence but, the Kensington Stone is not an extraordinary case. It was well within their means to travel to the 'New World.' The more fantastical assumption would be that they didn't explore more. To my mind, we should focus on the hard science. Geology has, for the most part, proved that it was carved a few hundred years ago. If it is a hoax, it was created a long time ago and we should ask who would have done that.
                            P.S. they weren't Vikings by that time either. They were Norwegians and Swedes.
                            • Re: Minnesota's "DaVinci Code"

                              Tue, June 7, 2005 - 10:32 AM
                              "Geology has, for the most part, proved that it was carved a few hundred years ago."

                              Hence my idea that it's a family Heirloom brought over by immigrants. That doesn’t mean that it’s a hoax though. It still has cultural significance. This article hints at the historical context related to Post medieval, Pre-industrial Europe.

                              Perhaps it’s a pre-printing press newspaper telling the news of goings on it Europe ;P
                              • Unsu...

                                Re: Minnesota's "DaVinci Code"

                                Tue, June 7, 2005 - 2:02 PM
                                re: "they weren't Vikings by that time either. They were Norwegians and Swedes" - that's EXACTLY what I was thinking!

                                First, how many Scandinavians were in the Templars, really? Secondly, the Templars came after the age of Vikings unless there's some serious chronological revision. Third, I doubt that the Templars would've used any futhark, Anglo-Saxon, Younger, whatever. Latin seems a more appropriate written language for a religious order of the day...

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