North American Runestones
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
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.
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
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 documented every individual rune on the stone with a
"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
"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
"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 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).
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.
Minneapolis Star Tribune Oct 29, 2000
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