North American Runestones

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The Kensington Runestone, an enigma

On November 8, 1898, a farmer named Olaf Ohman, several of his sons, and some men from neighbouring farms were clearing lumber and pulling stumps in preparation for plowing. Ohman was having considerable difficulty digging one tree, a poplar estimated to be between 10 and 40 years old, which was on the southern slope of a 50-foot knoll between his farm and that of Nils Flaaten, Ohman's closest neighbor. When the tree was finally uprooted, the cause of Ohman's trouble came into view: entwined in the roots of the aspen was a 200 pound slab of graywacke, the Kensington Runestone. The roots of the tree, especially the largest root, were flattened by contact with the stone, as was noted by several people who were there and by later visitors to the site. The stone was found face down in the soil, about six inches below ground level.

The inscription is in 2 parts.

The portion on the face of the stone says:
"Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on a journey of exploration from Vinland very far west. We had camp by 2 rocky islands one day's journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. After we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save from evil."

The portion along the edge of the stone says:
"Have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships 14 days' journey from this island. Year 1362."

The inscription, if genuine, would be one of the longest ancient runic inscriptions in the world. It is certainly one of the most controversial. 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."

Scott 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.

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"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.

                                                              Medieval 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 itís 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 have released their findings in a new book called, "The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence."


The Kensington Hoax:

The Kensington Rune Stone would not be a controversial topic if believers in the stoneís authenticity did not have opposition. Without the research and theories as developed through good archeology by scholars like Erik Wahlgren, Theodore Blegen, and Birgitta Wallace, just to name a few, the real truths regarding the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stones might never have been exposed. Wallace, in particular, has surfaced countless reasons, proofs, and understandings that all point specifically to a hoax, furthermore, inferring Ohman as having something to do with the inscription directly. She points out that Holand attempted to Ďcover upí the true Olof Ohman by personifying him as an "ignorant backwoods farmer, totally incapable of conceiving a runic inscription" (Wallace, 1982, pg. 60). However, Wallace points out that evidence of Ohmanís interest in the Vinland Expeditions come in the form of discovered newspaper clippings found in a scrapbook of Ohmanís (Wallace, 1982, pg. 60). Additionally, Ohmanís intelligence misconception would have been an easy hoax in itself because the Swedish born immigrant never became proficient in English, thus making him seem as if he were a poorly educated farmer, typical of the day. However, Wallace points to several letters and other manuscripts written by Ohman in Swedish which demonstrate his skillful mastery of words when using his native language. Interestingly enough, many of these passages, which were written in a Swedish Halsingland dialect, actually show consistencies in Ohmanís writings and the runic text on the stone (Wallace, 1982, pg. 60) Further research into the life of Olof Ohman show that his first trade was as a mason, not a farmer which he became much later in his life (Blegen, 1968, pg.9).

Literally, hundreds of other questions surround the Kensington story exist, many of which Wallace Ďdebunksí in her article Viking Hoaxes, which appeared in Vikings in the West, a collection of papers by various respectable archaeological authors. Questions concerning how the stone got under the tree, how old was the tree, and of what era is the runic text really from have all been asked by inquiring minds. Not surprisingly, people on both sides of the argument have always been able to derive some sort of answer, but, as part of the conclusion to his book, The Kensington Stone, A Mystery Solved, Wahlgren offers a sufficient explanation based on his good archeological research that effectively answers many of those questions ( 1982, pg. 179-181).

Conversely it has been countered argued by the sceptics that:                               "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 artefacts based solely on weathering rates."

Birgitta Wallace disagrees -- forcefully. Wallace, a Canadian of Swedish descent who is considered a foremost expert in West Norse archaeology, gave the keynote address at the conference at which Wolter and Hanson presented their hypothesis. She blasted their views. She said in an interview that every person who has ever studied the runestone and dreamed of fame must have had this fleeting thought: "I wish it were genuine." But every piece of evidence contradicts that, she said. As for Wolter's geology, she said, "All they've been able to prove is the stone is old." True, the stone is old, but is the inscription? No, she said flatly.

In her mind, the runestone clearly bears a 19th-century inscription. Neither the runes nor the vocabulary reflect the 1300s, she said. "If you know Swedish, that is the way my grandfather would write, not my ancestors from the 1300s." Also, she said, the idea of Norsemen exploring for the sake of exploration, as the runic legend suggests, is ridiculous. There were no economic reasons to go to Minnesota, nor has even one artifact been found that suggests the Norse were anywhere nearby in the 1300s. She finds the coincidence "amusing" that Norsemen explored an area more than 600 years before it was heavily settled by Scandinavians. Plus, geologic studies indicate that a cold climate prevailed in much of the 1300s, making travel very difficult in mid-America.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune Oct 29, 2000





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