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Discovery

Olof Ohman and family in the 1890s

Olof Ohman and his family in the 1890s

In 1898, Olof Ohman ((Öhman) 1854-1935, né Olsson and born in Forsa, Hälsingland, Sweden) was clearing away trees from a hillock on his farm in Solem (about 3 km north-north-east of Kensington, Minnesota, USA), when he discovered a stone entangled in the roots of a poplar (sometimes known as aspen or cottonwood) at a depth of around 15 cm (6 inches); the precise day of discovery is not known: according to some accounts, it was in August, while others give the date as 8 November. Nearby trees said to be of the same size as the felled example were examined in 1910 and found to be thirty to forty years old, based on a count of their growth rings, suggesting that the stone had been in the ground since before about 1880. The stone is carved from greywacke, is 79 cm long, 41 cm wide and 14 cm thick (31×16×5½ inches: these are maximum dimensions, as the stone is not perfectly rectangular) and weighs around 104 kg (230 lb). One face bears an inscription consisting of nine lines of runes (with the end of line 8 consisting of three Latin letters, AVM), while one side (to the left if one is looking at the inscribed face) has three more lines of runes; allegedly, it was Olof’s ten-year-old son Carl Edward (1888-1950) who first spotted the inscription, as it had been lying face down in the ground. The stone has broken along natural lines of cleavage and none of the faces was dressed in preparation for the inscription; Ohman cleaned the letters of the inscription on the side with the point of a nail, but is not said to have cleaned the main inscription in this way.

The Kensington Runestone

The Runestone displayed in the Runestone Museum

Because Ohman’s family was of Scandinavian origin (as were many settlers in the area), the symbols were soon recognised as runes, although Ohman claimed that he first thought it was an ancient “Indian almanac”. This is curious, as Ohman owned books with accounts of runes and they were still used by Scandinavians in folk texts. Runes were an ancient north European writing system that probably first developed in the second century CE under Roman influence and which were regularly taught to Scandinavian schoolchildren in the nineteenth century. On 1 January 1899, the mayor of Kensington, John P Hedberg (1853-after 1933), sent a copy of the inscription was to his friend Swan Johan Turnblad (1860-1933, né Sven Johan Olofsson), owner of Svenska Amerikanska Posten (an American Swedish language newspaper). The newspaper published translations on 14 and 28 March 1899, although it had been pre-empted by the Minneapolis Journal, which had already published one on 24 February. The stone itself was put on display in a bank (although one account available on the web describes it incorrectly as a “drugstore”). In view of the subsequent controversy over the authenticity of the stone, it is worth noting that Ohman never sought to make money from his discovery.

Over the years, a number of transcriptions and translations have been made of the runes on the stone, of which the best known is that of Hjalmar Holand, first published in 1908. They have varied only in minor details. The most recent, by Richard Nielsen, published in The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence, coauthored with Scott Wolter and published in 2005, has introduced some minor changes, with Nielsen arguing that the thau-rune, Þ, may have an additional value, /t/. His new transcription thus reads:

8 g:öter: ok : 22 : norrmen : po :
…o: opþagelsefardþ : fro :
vinlanþ : of : vest : vi :
hafþe : läger : veþ : 2 : skŁar : en :
þags : rise : norr : fro : þeno : sten :
vi : var : ok : fiske : en : þagh : äptir :
vi : kom : hem: fan : 10 : man : röþe :
af : bloþ : og : þeþ : AVM
fräelse : af : illu

här : 10 : mans : ve : havet : at : se :
äptir : vore : skip : 14 : þagh : rise :
from : þeno : öh : ahr : 1362

Nielsen translates:

8 Götalanders and 22 Northmen on
this reclaiming/plundering journey far
to the west from Vinland. We
had a camp by 2 shelters one
day’s journey north from this stone.
We were fishing one day. After
we came home we found 10 men red
from blood and death. Ave Maria,
Save from evil.

There are 10 men by the sea
to look after our ships 14 days’ journey
from this island. Year 1362.

If genuine, this is clearly a document of huge importance for the history of the European exploration of North America. It claims that a part of eight Goths (Swedes) and twenty-two Northmen (Norwegians) had reached the mid West of the USA, setting out from Vinland, far to the east; ten of the party had been killed at a camp by a lake one day’s journey to the north (Kensington lies to the south of an area of numerous lakes). Ten other men had been left to guard their ships at a location fourteen days’ journey from the site, which is described as an “island”, although at the time of discovery, it was a hillock.

First analyses

Olaus Breda

Olaus Breda

Olaus Jensen Breda (1853-1916), Professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature at the University of Minnesota, was the first scholar to examine a copy of the inscription, in January 1899; some accounts claim that he never saw the original stone, while Hjalmar Holand’s account states that he was sent it. It appears that he was sent a hand-written copy of the text by J P Hedberg; it is not clear how Holand got this detail wrong. Breda was dismissive of its authenticity, believing it to be a poor attempt at forging an eleventh-century text and an illiterate mixture of Norwegian, Swedish and English (exactly as would be expected from a forgery concocted by a nineteenth-century Scandinavian settler in Minnesota), an opinion shared by scholars in Scandinavia to whom he forwarded copies. Nevertheless, he published a translation on 22 February 1899, the first apparently to do so.

In February 1899, the stone was sent to George Oliver Curme (1860-1948), a linguist at Northwestern University, who arranged for it to be photographed by John Fletcher Steward (1841-1915?), an amateur geologist. Curme was sceptical of the inscription’s medieval origin and noted that although the stone appeared weathered, the inscription was lighter in colour, as if more recent in date. He asked for an excavation to be conducted around the discovery site, but there does not appear to be any evidence that one was carried out or, if it had been, whether anything further was discovered.

Hjalmar Holand

Hjalmar Holand

After the stone was returned to Ohman in March 1899 as being of no interest to scholarship, he is said to have used it as a stepping stone near a granary; it seems to have been placed face down. The historian Hjalmar Rued Holand (1872-1963) obtained it from Ohman in August 1907, during an investigation of the history of Norwegian settlement in Minnesota, and brought it to the attention of the Minnesota Historical Society, to whom he attempted to sell it for $5000 in 1910, a ridiculously over-inflated sum at the time. Ohman refused to allow Holand to sell it, as he was still the owner; it was entrusted to the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and was finally purchased by a group of ten local businessmen on 9 October 1951 for $2500. Holand published an account of the stone in Journal of American History 4 (1910), 165-84, referring to it as the “Oldest Native Document in America”.

The Minnesota Historical Society began its own investigation into the stone, under the direction of State Geologist Newton Horace Winchell (1839-1914). In 1909, Winchell obtained affidavits from Olof Ohman, Carl Edward Ohman, Nils Olof Flaten, Roald Benson and Samuel Olson about the discovery of the stone, which is perhaps how confusion about the date of discovery and who was present at the time arose, as the statements were made ten years after the stone was found. Winchell spent some time interviewing locals and apparently conducted investigations on the site and his report was published as part of a summary endorsed by the Society’s committee in Minnesota Historical Collections 15 (1915), 221-86. The Society also consulted further experts in Scandinavian languages, as its committee seems to have been unwilling to accept the sole testimony of Holand, who was not a linguist. The first approached Gisle Christian Johnson Bothne (1860-1934), Olaus Breda’s successor at the University of Minnesota, who also declared it a fraud. A second linguist, John A Holvik, was consulted. He also thought the inscription a hoax.

Both Holand and Winchell were convinced of the authenticity of the stone. They based this on the discovery that the stone contains a date, which Holand transcribed as 1362: this instantly removed Breda’s objection to an eleventh-century date for the inscription and Holand was convinced that the language of the stone was later medieval. Holand described the numerals as being the same as those used on primstav, a runic calendrical system based on wooden staves, the oldest surviving example dating from 1457. However, while the numerals are of quite different form from those used on primstave, a fact that Holand uses to show that they cannot have been copied from them, their precise nature is a problem for an ancient date for the stone, as we will see.

In 1911, Holand brought the stone to Europe, to have its inscription assessed by runologists. They were unimpressed and most though it fraudulent; Holand’s accounts gloss over this lack of support by those most familiar with European runic texts, which suggests that his belief in the stone’s authenticity dulled his critical faculties as an historian. If runologists were unhappy with the text, Holand ought to have been more robust in his defence. That he was not is worrying. It should be noted that many of those who still support the stone accuse the early twentieth-century experts of incompetence, a technique often encountered among those promoting objects rejected by conventional scholarship: those who disagree are jealous, closed-minded and part of a conspiracy to suppress the truth, while the few who lend their support are true visionaries, mavericks who deserve praise and the only people who deserve to be called “experts”.

If the inscription is genuine…

The Skálholt Map

A 1690 copy of the map by Sigurdur Stefánsson attempting to locate the places mentioned in the Vinland Sagas

If, as Holand was convinced, the inscription is a genuine record of a Scandinavian expedition in fourteenth-century Minnesota, there ought to be an historical context for it. Holand worked hard to find one and to construct a plausible scenario. He believed that the mixed group of Goths and Northmen would have been impossible before the union of the kingdoms of Sweden and Norway in 1319, so the date given by the stone was therefore possible.

Holand’s biggest problem was that the fourteenth century was the dying days of Norse settlement in Greenland, while the known voyages to Vinland took place in the eleventh century. Nevertheless, he pointed out that a fourteenth century date made sense of some of the linguistic difficulties of the inscription: while its language was impossible for Old Norse, this was a period in which many of its features were undergoing change and the mixed dialect could then be explained by the composition of the group.

What, though, of the difference between the purported date of the stone and the much earlier date of the voyages to Vinland? He pointed out that there appeared to be records of a voyage west from Norway in 1355, in search of the colonists in Greenland, who had been out of contact for some years (indeed, there was a report in 1348 that the colonists had vanished). In the autumn of 1354, King Magnus Eriksson (1316-1374; King Magnus IV of Sweden 1319-1364 and King Magnus VII of Norway 1319-1343), commissioned Pål Knutsson, a government officer from Bergen, to sail to Greenland to assess conditions there. Knutsson’s expedition would thus have been led by a Norwegion, under the direction of a Swedish king. Holand believed that, finding the Greenland colony deserted, Knutsson spent many years searching for the lost colonists, evidently reaching Minnesota in 1362, where he and his companions may have perished.

Next, Holand needed to work out how Knutsson’s party had reached Minnesota. The Scandinavians were maritime explorers, not accustomed to crossing continental landmasses. Holand discounted the most obvious route from Vinland into the heart of North America, via the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, as this was blocked by Niagara Falls. Instead, he suggested that the voyagers had sailed around the north of Labrador, entered Hudson Bay and travelled along the Nelson River, leaving ten men at its mouth. The reached Lake Winnipeg and entered the Red River; the details of the last part of the journey into the area around Kensington are more difficult to work out. Holand hypothesised that native guides had taught the explorers methods of portage, so that they could move their ships across watersheds; it was while they were in the lakes of Minnesota that ten of the party were killed by locals. The stone was then set up by the surviving members of the expedition who were themselves killed. The ten left at the mouth of the Nelson River may have returned to Norway or may themselves have been killed.

Map of Holand's proposed route to Kensington

Map showing two routes to Kensington: the yellow is that preferred by Holand, the pale green is the “obvious” route he discounted

Holand examined his hypothetical route from Hudson Bay to central Minnesota in the hope of finding physical traces of the expedition. Along the Nelson River and Red River, he found stones with drilled holes that he believed had been used by the explorers to tie their boats while moored. The case appeared to be strong and gained many supporters, although it never won mainstream acceptance. Why?

Problems and controversies

There are inevitably problems with the discovery, interpretation and significance of the stone. Firstly, none of the finders could agree on when it was found. As already noted, the date is given variously as August or as 8 November (I wonder if this is a confusion over the meaning of 8/11 or 11/8 in a note); some accounts place its discovery as after lunch, others as early evening (although, as Tom Sontag notes in his comment below, “lunch” in Minnesota dialect can refer tothe evening meal). While confusion about precise details is not damning, it could be said that people had not got their stories straight. However, the accounts of discovery were collected ten years after the event and human memory is fallible.

More serious is the objection of context. There is no evidence that Pål Knutsson’s expedition was ever assembled or set out. Although there were occasional contacts with Greenland in the later fourteenth century, its economic importance had declined as there was no longer a market for narwhal and walrus ivory. A merchantman, Bauta Hluti, was fitted out for the voyage in 1366 and was known as the Grœnlands Knörr; after it was lost at sea in 1369, it was not replaced. The last contact seems to have been in 1385, when the Olafssudinn, a ship from Greenland arrived in Norway; it had spent two years in Iceland before travelling to Scandinavia. The passengers reported the death of Álfur, Bishop of Garðar (the cathedral city in Greenland’s Eastern Settlement), in 1379; although successors continued to be appointed until the Reformation, none ever visited their diocese. By this date, even visits to Iceland were uncommon. There were sporadic trips between Iceland and Greenland into the early fifteenth century, but the Western Settlement had long been abandoned. If Pål Knutsson had reached Greenland, he would have encountered Scandinavian settlers living in reduced circumstances from their heyday a century before, but there would have been no need to spend the next nine years looking for others. The reason for journeying into the heart of the North American continent vanishes.

Gustav Storm

Gustav Storm, populariser of the neologism opdagelse, meaning “voyage of discovery”

The language of the stone has always caused problems. Although early sceptics criticised the rune forms, it has been found that many of them are attested in the medieval period. Rather, it is the words and their grammatical forms that have caused most linguists to reject the inscription. Instead of regular fourteenth-century Norse or Swedish, the inscription is a mixture of the two languages. No matter, say the believers: the party was composed of both Goths and Northmen, so a mixing of languages could be a result of the dictation of the the text by a Swede and its carving by a Norwegian. However, there are further problems. The grammar makes more sense in a nineteenth-century Swedish context than a late medieval. There is also a word – opþagelsefardþ that is unattested during the Middle Ages. Indeed, it was an obscure word that was popularised by the Norwegian historian Gustav Storm (1845-1903) in his 1888 work on Vinland, Studier over Vinlandsreiserne, Vinlands Geografi og Etnografi, parts of which had been serialised in an American Swedish language newspaper in 1889. The very word opdagelse did not enter the Scandinavian languages until the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century and borrows from Dutch opdagen and German aufdecken, both deriving from the French décovrir, “discover’, itself a spelling not attested before the sixteenth century.

Recently, claims have been made that a scientific analysis by Scott F Wolter proves conclusively that the Kensington Runestone has been shown to be of medieval date. One of Wolter’s claims is that there are four R runes with an internal dot; a photograph reproduced on this believer’s site shows that, far from being a deliberately punched dot, the mark is irregular and not as crisply incised as the letter. Wolter’s comparison of the inscription with local tombstones carved in greywacke suggests that the weathering on the Runestone is comparable with inscriptions several centuries old; taking the history of the stone, which was discovered buried, into account might then be used as evidence that the inscription was protected from similar weathering and is thus older. This ignores any damage that might have been caused by cleaning the inscription with a nail (which supporters have used as a reason not to use the weathering (or lack thereof) as evidence for age), although it appears that only the runes on the side of the stone were cleaned in this way. Dating inscriptions by weathering is never an exact science and further work needs to be done to assess whether or not similar weathering could have occurred on a stone carved in, say, 1890, and examined in the early twentieth century; it also needs to be established that no artificial ageing of the inscription has taken place, whether by design or in the course of misguided cleaning (such as scrubbing with a wire brush or soaking in vinegar).

The sword of the Westford Knight

The alleged sword pommel of the Westford Knight

To make matters even more complex, Wolter associates the inscription with a group of Knights Templar, whom he hypothesises fled Europe following the suppression of their order in 1312. This takes us away from Holand’s hypothesis of Scandinavian explorers into conspiracy theory. Fugitive Knights Templar have been blamed for a wide variety of supposed “mysteries”, so it was only a matter of time before they were hauled into the controversy of the Kensington Runestone! Wolter’s evidence is based on cryptograms, which are rarely a good starting point for historical hypotheses. If the stone had been erected by a group of Templars, what else can be attributed to them in the New World? A variety of sites are thrown into the mix, including the Newport Tower and the Westford Knight. The first is a colonial era windmill, the second fanciful over-interpretation of glacial scratches.

Richard Nielsen has produced a comprehensive rebuttal of Wolter’s geological analysis and the hypothesis of a Knights Templar connection, although he continues to support a medieval date for the inscription (albeit cautiously: in a letter to the Runestone Museum, he states that he has “seen no unambiguous evidence that proves the K[ensington] R[une]S[tone] is modern”, which is a curiously lukewarm endorsement). The linguistic aspects of the stone are clearly the most contentious, although Nielsen is in a minority of linguists in supporting its authenticity.

Was Olof Ohman the fraudster?

The balance of probability is that stone is fraudulent. Henrik Williams, Professor of Norse Languages at the University of Uppsala, who examined the stone when it was exhibited at the Historiska Museet (Museum of National Antiquities) in Stockholm in 2003-4, believes it fraudulent. He issued a joint statement with Richard Nielsen in which they point out that its language is appropriate for neither the fourteenth or nineteenth centuries and that it “requires further study before a secure conclusion can be reached”.

The numbers of the pentimal system are the most worrying aspect of the inscription, although Holand saw it as the best confirmatory evidence. The system is not ancient and the earliest attestation of its use is from 1885, in the notes of an eighteen-year-old Swedish journeyman tailor, Edward Larsson. Medieval runes use a different system, based on alphabetic runes with an additional three symbols to give nineteen individual numerals. The numbers on the runestone were clearly a system in common use during the nineteenth century but not earlier, strong evidence that the Kensignton runestone is a nineteenth-century fraud.

Olof Ohman and the RUnestone

An innocent man: Olof Ohman and the Kensington Runestone

Sceptics have tended to lay the blame for the fraud on Olof Ohman. They point to the discovery of a version of the inscription sent by John P Hedberg to Svenska Amerikanska Posten that differs in fifteen places from what is what is written on the stone. The runologist Erik Moltke (1901-1984), a vocal critic of the stone, suggested that this was a preliminary draft of the inscription on the grounds that the supposed errors of transcription, carried out by someone who professed to believe it was in Greek, are actually genuine runes, although forms more difficult to carve. Anyone unfamiliar with runes, as Hedberg and Ohman were supposed to be, would not have supplied symbols that made sense if they were making copying errors. Moltke reasoned that the text that had come into Hedberg’s possession “was made by a person completely familiar with these ‘runes’ and that the carver had simplified difficult shapes.

Some accounts make a great deal of a supposed “deathbed confession”, recorded by Walter Cran in 1973. In it, he claimed that his father, John, had also made a deathbed confession, in which he claimed to have assisted Olof Ohman in carving the stone; Walter had subsequently asked John Ohman, Olof’s son, on his deathbed if this was true, which he admitted. Three deathbed confessions are stretching credibility to the limit, and I think that it is safe to reject this version of events.

Many of the Runestone’s supporters have suggested that Olof Ohman was poorly educated, referring to him as a simple farmer. However, this is clearly an attempt to divert suspicion away from him. He had an ordinary schooling in Sweden (where, significantly, he would have been taught about runes and where they were still in use among country folk) and was plainly literate: he is known to have enjoyed reading, especially about the history of Sweden. There were books in his possession, including one that contained a chapter on the development of the Swedish language and a quotation from a fourteenth-century prayer ending fräelse af illu, exactly as on the stone. Moreover, friend Sven Fogelblad, had a college degree and a library of scholarly books: if Ohman had wished to forge the inscription, he certainly had the information and contacts to enable him to come up with a plausible text.

Interestingly, there is another possible context for the massacre of ten Norwegians in Minnesota, not in 1362 but in 1862. On 20 August of the latter year, a group of Native Americans dressed in war clothes attacked a community of recent Norwegian settlers at Norway Lake. It is a curious coincidence, if nothing else. However, it may have been an inspiration for whoever concocted the inscription.

It has been pointed out that Ohman arrived in the USA in 1879, just in time to have planted the tree in whose roots the Runestone was found almost twenty years later; however, he did not buy the farm until 1890, too late to have planted it, if the assessment of the age of the tree was correct. This alone ought to rule him out as the hoaxer and instead cast him in the position of the hoaxer’s dupe. His behaviour after the discovery of the stone appears to corroborate this: he made no attempt to profit from his discovery and even seems to have abandoned the stone when it was first pronounced a fake, only a few months after finding it. These are not the actions of a hoaxer; some have claimed that the discovery ruined the rest of Olof Ohman’s life, which may be something of an exaggeration, as the runestone was widely accepted as genuine from 1910 to after his death.

Nevertheless, we return to the word opdagelse, which first made an appearance among members of the American Scandinavian community in 1889. This ought to give us a terminus post quem for the writing of the inscription. This means that the stone ought to have been in the ground for no more than ten years when it was discovered and that, for nine of those years, the land had belonged to Olof Ohman. He therefore had the opportunity to plant it; it also means that, if someone wanted to target Ohman as the dupe, they also had nine years in which to plant it. Theodore Blegen found Newton Winchell’s original field notebook in 1968. It contains the geologist’s observations of the roots from which the stone had been removed, suggesting that it had been hidden among them recently; in other words, the age of the tree ceased to be an issue, since it had not grown over a stone already in the ground. Winchell had also noted in 1909 that the chisel marks were fresh and unweathered; it is also apparent today that the H incised by Holand around 1910 and the runes have a similar amount of patina, which makes Wolter’s claims that their age can be established geologically rather dubious.

In my opinion, Olof Ohman was not a hoaxer. He seems to have been genuinely puzzled by his discovery and to have disregarded it when it became apparent that scholars believed it to be fraudulent. It was only when Hjalmar Holand took up the cause on his own behalf that the case of the Kensington Runestone began to take off. Ohman was left without the stone and with a tarnished reputation, which may be what the fraudster had intended from the outset.

90 Responses to The Kensington Runestone

  • Gary says:

    This is fascinating. All I know about this is what you’ve written here but I’m wondering if you’ve looked into the possibility that there is a direct connection to the 1862 killings. Could someone involved with that have carved it? It would answer several issues. I don’t know how the date is expressed in runes, but there is just one digit difference in Arabic numerals. Could that be a misreading? It would explain the age of the tree, Olof’s attitude, the words that don’t fit in the earlier timeline. Were the “settlers” actually settled or were they in the process of exploring for a place to settle? That might explain some of the language used. What do you think?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      That’s a very interesting suggestion! The difference between the numeral 3 and the numeral 8 is just one stroke. I’ll investigate further.

      • Kelley says:

        I thought the same thing. Having lived in Minnesota, I heard about this stone many, many years ago. Very intriguing to say the least. But I have always thought that the most plausible explanation was that there was either a simple error in the date as engraved, or an interpretation error in the date. That would make everything about the stone suddenly fall into place and make perfect sense.

      • Gary says:

        Keith, did you ever get a chance to explore the possibility that it was meant to say 1862 instead of 1362?

        • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

          It’s something I’ve not been able to pursue over the summer (out doing fieldwork), but I intend to look into it over the coming months.

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  • quizmasterchris says:

    Would Scandinavian settlers in the 19th century really have described Minnesota as being “far to the west of Vinland?!” Is that plausible..? I tend to think this is a simple hoax.

  • Roy says:

    The balance of the evidence appears to me to be that the Kensington Rune is probably genuine and the so-called epigraphers who declared it fake fell victim to their own academic conceits and the lure of “conventional wisdon”, always the path of least resistance.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I disagree. the balance of evidence seems to me to suggest that it was a nineteenth-century product and a hoax perpetrated by a person (or persons) unknown on Olof Ohmann.

  • Tom Sontag says:

    Dear Bad Archaeology,

    Came upon your site. Quite interesting. Thank you.

    Please review your use of the word “Lunch” in the sentence listed below. You may have introduced unnecessary confusion in your analysis by using this specific word.

    In Minnesota, the word “dinner” can mean “lunch” around noon, or it can mean “supper” in the early evening. The use of the word “dinner” versus “lunch” to describe the noon meal depends on several cultural and geographic parameters, as does the use of the word “dinner” versus “supper” for the evening meal. If there is disagreement over the time of day the stone was found, this could have been caused by the definition of the word “dinner”.

    “some accounts place its discovery as after lunch, others as early evening. While confusion about precise details is not damning, it could be said that people had not got their stories straight. However, the accounts of discovery were collected ten years after the event and human memory is fallible.”

    Tom

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Thank you for that information. It’s the exact opposite of how language is used this side of the Atlantic: it’s the word “dinner” that suffers from confusion, with some people using it to refer to the midday meal rather than the evening meal.

      • Stan Beck says:

        Lunch as explained by my 100% Norwegian father while talking about working at the farm. This was the progression of the meals on a long day on the farm. Breakfast, eggs, bacon, Porkchops, pancakes (5am) a little lunch, coffee, cookie, cold chops (9:30am) dinner, chicken, pork roast, potatoes (12 noon) a little lunch, again coffee donuts, sandwiches (3pm) supper, similar to dinner (6pm) and if work progressed after supper, a little lunch at 9pm.

        So tell me, what time is lunch?

        • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

          That’s an interesting insight. It highlights the fact that lunch was a movable feast (sorry) for Norwegian Americans.

  • Rocky R Rockbourne says:

    Is it possible that the Kensington Runestone was intended more as satirical prank and less as a straightforward hoax? The parallelism with the events of 1862, the single stroke separating 1362 and 1862, and the grand style seem consistent with some person(s) unknown with some interest in Norse history making light of the relatively mundane events of 1862 by putting archaeological dressing on them, using runes and references to Vinlandia. The mixture of Norwegian and Swedish including demonstrably modern forms could be a prankster’s attempt to “recreate” Old Norse. Perhaps the prankster(s) felt that the events of 1862 were well-known enough that people would catch the “pun”, so to speak. Perhaps they even intended to carve 1862 into the rock, but made a mistake, then either failed to notice or decided to run with it (as pranks can take on a life of their own). Admittedly, this is speculation, but it wouldn’t be unlike somebody of a liberal persuasion satirically retelling the story of George W. Bush’s presidency by setting it in 1776 or shortly before to get the “mad King George” joke in there and getting to inject commentary on costly wars against the “Mohamedans” for which we are now expected to pay at the expense of our liberty. If there’s any truth to my prankster hypothesis, I wonder if the pranksters thought people would eventually get the joke, but when they saw people were taking it seriously, decided to just seal their lips out of the hilarious results they were achieving and/or fear of repercussions for coming clean.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    Defenders of KRS authenticity have often challenged skeptics to offer a scenario of forgery that fits the evidence, but does not have Ohman as the forger. Sometimes fiction is the best way to explore a scenario and I have written a short story that I believe does this. It is titled “Far to the West of Vinland,” and it is available free on my website, LynnBrant.com.

  • Joe Morin says:

    If they could portage across a big chunk of Canada and Minnesota, why couldn’t they portage around Niagara Falls? It seems to me to be the more obvious route.Also, Scott Wolter is reputed to be an expert in determining the age of surfaces. It doesn’t seem likely that he would be deceived by wire brushes or vinegar soaking. Comments?
    Joe

    • Stan Beck says:

      Have you boated on the Red River or any of the tributaries flowing into it from the east? Very VERY few portages required on those rivers, many of them only have a change in altitude of one foot per mile for the first twenty to seventy miles. On the other hand from Duluth to Kensington you have to deal with three seperate river systems and watershed divides with the elevation changing hundreds of feet in just a few miles.

      • Joe Morin says:

        Well that’s exactly my point. Thank you. So why wouldn’t they portage around Niagara Falls and take the easier route?

        • ragged-gothic says:

          While I consider the Stone to be a hoax, it must be remembered that any putative medieval Scandinavians would not have a “preferred route” at all. If the story is examined on face value, these men would have had little to no knowledge of the North American landmass. They could have no idea which rivers lead far into the interior, which would lead inland, but in a wholly different direction (note the proximity of the mouths of the Nelson and Churchill rivers, for example), and which would have taken them only a short distance. (Remember the much later and more educated explorer, Sir Alexander MacKenzie, searching for a river route to the Pacific [which he knew was there] stumbled upon the river that bears his name today. It took him, not to the Pacific, but the Arctic Ocean.) Current information on the Greenland settlement suggests lumbering and possibly even trade took place in Markland (identified with Labrador) and Halluland (usually identified with Baffin Island). The Vinland settlement would, in 1362, have been a 350 year old memory. (Think: how much does the average North American know about this continent as it was in 1650′s? Greenland settlers in 1362, mostly illiterate, would have even less to tell Pål Knutsson about Vinland.) Knutsson, if he were setting out west or south from Greenland, might not even be aware of the existence of either Hudson Bay or the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The question remains, though, why would Knutsson travel so far afield if he were looking for lost or refugee settlers? If one were looking for a group of people who disappeared from say, London or Paris, I doubt one would begin by sailing up the Baltic (Hudson Bay), the rivers of Russia (the Nelson and the Red), and the Caspian Sea (Lake Winnipeg), in order to conduct a search for these Londoners/Parisiennes on the Persian Plateau. Finally, why the stone itself? Why would this (unproven) Knutsson expedition suddenly decide to carve a runestone in, what to them would be, the middle of nowhere to chronicle their voyage? As far as they knew, no European would ever find it. Even if they did carve a monument, there are two plausible scenarios. First, if they were hoping to leave a message to they expected other following Scandinavian expeditions to use, wouldn’t the mouth of the Nelson on Hudson Bay be a better choice? Second, if they presumed themselves lost and doomed, would not such men have have chosen the Latin alphabet, amuch more universal (within European culture) form, if they were leaving some sort of “message in a bottle” to posterity, rather than a more parochial form, like runescript? Just my thoughts on the subject; sorry for all the parenthetical statements.

  • “Although early sceptics criticised the rune forms, it has been found that many of them are attested in the medieval period” – Yes, but many others are not. The stone uses diaresis (two dots) to mark the germanic umlaut, a practice that first appears in germany in the 16th century. It’s not used in runes until the 18th-19th centry, so the rune forms are in fact around 4-500 years younger than the claimed date.

    Just that in itself is proof that it is not genuine.

    @Joe Morin: No, they could not portage across a big chunk of anything. The boats that were used for portage were small viking areas ships built for travel on rivers and in the baltic. Here is a reconstruction: http://gotland.vingar.se/krampmacken.jpg

    The boats used to travel the Atlantic in the 14th century was Cogs, like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bremen_Hansekogge_RolandvonBremen.JPG You can not portage them. It’s possible that there was still some Knarrs in use, but they could not be portaged either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Modell_Knorr.jpg

    • Stan Beck says:

      I agree, boats on the rivers, not ships. The Swedes had already conquered the Russian rivers the same way. I am sure that many of the sailors were also boatman and knew there way around river systems.

    • Stan Beck says:

      The thing that drives me on the KRS is why there is a larger concentration of “mooring stones” onRune Hill then anywhere else. Yes, many of us know that there are many if these no where near the water. I have touched them and measured the holes, they are all consistent in size and re found from Lake Winnepeg down to SouthDakota. Must have been onebusy hoaxter to drill between 400-450 similar holes.

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    The most obvious route to Minnesota from Vinland would have been the same as the “preferred” route employed by French fur traders three centuries later: the Ottawa River. Niagara Falls was bypassed. As far as the craft used by the Norse, again, they would have done what the Frenchmen did: birch-bark canoes and Indian guides!
    The real question is: what was their mission? What would motivate 30 medieval mariners to travel halfway across an unknown continent? For what? AWOL Greenlanders? Furs? Gold? The answer is none of the above. The only logical explanation for a journey of that magnitude would have been if they had been looking for a western route to the Orient, and SPICE was the reason.
    When the explorers arrived at the western terminus of Lake Superior they encountered the Dakota Indians and realized their dreams had been dashed.
    The only reason the party continued west from Superior Bay was because they were invited to the Dakota’s main center at Spirit Lake (Mille Lacs) where the runestone was carved.
    Sometime during the mid-1700′s the stone was moved to Lake Minnetonka. In 1850 it was moved, by the Dakota, for the last time to Kensington and Olof’s hill.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Can you provide any evidence for your claimed sequence of events? Why would the Dakota have moved the stone?

  • Mary Jane Miller says:

    on theuse of dinner and lunch – in rural Ontario lunch can be served at any time frrom noon to midnigh when lunch is served after a performance or night of euchre.

  • Anthony Green says:

    Thanks for this great article. My mother had just seen a show on the Rune Stone on the History Channel that convinced her of the stone’s authenticity. As a long time Minnesotan who is now 86 years old I appreciate why my mother enjoys the idea that the stone is real, though I was forced to argue with her that first, if the topic is at all controversial you can’t rely on anything you see on the history channel and second, as you point out, there is no reasonable historical context that puts Vikings in central Minnesota in 1362. Wanting to be sure of my opinion after my mother called me “narrow minded” led me to your site. I am not a historian but I do have an undergraduate minor in history and was one class away from a double major in history and political science. So I do have some basic understanding of historical research method. I am also an experienced criminal defense attorney so looking at evidence – or in many cases the lack of evidence- and determining what facts can be reasonably inferred from that evidence is something I do almost daily. I point this out only so it’s clear that my opinion that there is no historical context to justify the runestone’s authenticity is an educated one. I’m debating whether I should now send your article to my mother or let her be happy in her old age with her delusions. However were my father still alive I am sure he would find your article very interesting, but then unlike my mother he was always something of skeptic of the runestone.

  • Toby says:

    To be fair, the inscription explicitly states that the ships were left at sea, guarded by ten men. So I guess we have to imagine the rest of the crew setting out on their journey upstreams in some much smaller boats, either brought for this purpose or built on the site…

    The travelling time clearly doesn’t make sense, though: there is no way any rowers or paddlers could cover the distance between the stone and the sea in 14 days – not even downstreams.

    Actually, even besides the language, there are quite a few things that seem rather implausible. Why would half of an exploring party of only twenty men split off to go fishing in unknown territory? And, after returning and finding their comrades killed, would the remaining ten really have spent a day or two, with their lifes at stake, to find a suitable stone and carve the inscription – instead of trying to get back to the sea as quickly as possible?

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    The “sea” is Lake Superior. The runestone party WALKED into Minnesota’s interior. Tree ring data along with 9 paleoclimate studies conducted in the past 15 years prove that Minnesota’s river and lake levels were at their lowest levels ever during the 14th century; especially during the mid-1300′s, making river travel nearly impossible. The Old Superior Trail runs from Superior to Malmo, at Mille lacs Lake. This takes 12 days to walk. The Dakota moved the Norse to a temporary camp near Garrison Creek where the ten deaths occurred. Some of the dead were Dakota who fought alongside the Norse. This is why the remainder of the party moved their camp a day’s journey south to Kathio where the Dakota braves were buried. The Norse’s new camp was on Aquipaguetin Island (of Father Hennepin fame) where the runestone was carved. The return trip to Superior was 14 days–1 day to Garrison Creek, 1day to Malmo, and 12 days to Superior.
    Dakota braves who died in battle were customarily buried where their mothers resided. In this case three fourths of the 14th-century villages at Mille Lacs were in the Kathio area. This is the reason the deaths and carving happened a day’s journey apart. They were moved for safety reasons.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    If there was a rune stone party in 1362 that walked or sailed into the interior of Minnesota, why did they do so?

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    The only solid evidence is the runestone itself. As for my assertions, I’ll take them one at a time.
    1.) The word “havet” is acceptable when describing a large body of freshwater, such as Superior. The havet could not have been Hudson Bay because of the distance ( it takes 14 days to cross Lake Winnipeg alone). Therefore, Lake Superior must be the havet.
    2.) Core drillings and pollen samples agree with the North American Drought Atlas that Minnesota was in the middle of a drought during much of the 1300′s (Gajewski, 1988; St. Jacque et al, 2008; Clark, 1988; Tian et al, 2006; Booth et al, 2006; Dean et al, 1994; Nelson and Hu 2008; Miao, et al 2008). All these studies concluded that long periods of drought took hold of the region beginning in 1340 AD. According to the data lake levels were at their lowest from 1340 AD to 1380 AD.
    In 1362 the Norse had no choice–they walked! And the the only logical place to go was the Dakota center at Mille Lacs.
    3.) A mile north of Garrison Creek a fine-grained greywacke spall was found by Jacob Brower in 1900. A decade later Newton Winchell described the spall: “the flaking was done by some powerful instrument.” He said it appeared necessary, “to use a heavy steel maul which had a firm angular face, or a chisel.” The greywacke was the same type as the Kensington Runestone. Remember what Sam Olson, an eye-witness to the 1898 events at Olof’s farm, “There does not seem to be any stone like it in the vicinity. Only gray granite here.” (In a letter to Olaus Breda, U of M.)
    Brower also noted an ancient enclosure near Garrison Creek, unlike anything he had seen before
    4.) Whether or not any Dakota were among the ten dead, retreating to the Kathio area, with two fortified villages, would have been the safe thing to do.
    5.) There is only one island in the Mille Lacs area that was habituated and that was Aquipaguetin Island between Shakopee Lake and Lake Onamia. Only surface examinations have performed on this island.
    6.) The 1900 Archaeological Chart of Mille Lac by Jacob Brower also shows two interesting features. The first is Spirit Island It is shown as Spirit “ROCK” Island. A safe place to stash your spirit rock. The second feature gis a creek on the northwest side of the lake that translates: “Cut-Stone of the White-Heads” Creek.

    How the stone ended up on Olof’s hill is another story.

    I agree it’s all circumstantial. Do you have a better theory?

  • Lynn Brant says:

    There is greywacke like the KRS all over the Kensington area. Newton Winchell commented on it. I don’t see a good case at all being made for the proposition that the KRS was carried by humans to rune stone hill from another distant location. It was carried by the glacier.

    • James Willmus says:

      Pardon me, but I must attest, glaciers weren’t advancing or retreating anywhere near Kensington Minnesota in the 1300′s. The water table at the time was higher than it is today, more water meaning less ice. Should the Norsemen traveled even remotely close to the area, the red river would have to be open enough for boats containing perhaps 5-10 men each to travel. Though it is still possible the stone was moved, we must get our human history and our climate history in sync. It would be impossible and impractical to traverse a glacier at the time, most of the ice melted in Minnesota around 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, not a few hundred. IF Norsemen made it to Kensington, or at least to within a reasonable distance, then they would have done so in late spring when the water is high enough, and when all the ponds, lakes, and rivers would merge into one large water mass. A great place to verify this is in the North East corner of South Dakota, where an ancient glacial valley similar to the red river valley has many small ponds which regularly flood and connect with each other. Thus water travel during flooding season was not only possible, but may have been preferred.

    • campwoof says:

      I agree that no research of significance has been done on the KRS for a very long time. The reason for that is that there is nothing to research, other than perhaps the runes and linguistics, and that has been researched and speculated upon a great deal. There is no provenance for the KRS. All we have is the testimony of one man and his son as to the finding. Everything hangs on that. This is why belief in KRS authenticity is an act of faith. No wonder it is carried out with such devotion by its adherents.

      One thing I find particularly annoying is how people who proclaim themselves researches and claim to be interested only in the truth, blindly accept assumptions like it really was found by accident and it really was in tree roots. Another is the foolish assumption that if it was a hoax, it must have been Olof Ohman who carved it. Far more likely, is that someone else had the means and the motive to create a rune stone forgery, and Olof was either tricked or bribed into participating in the contrived finding.

      I’ve been told many times that that couldn’t be because blah or because blah blah. So, I’ve written a short story detailing a very plausible scenario of the rune stone’s origin. It is titled Far to the West of Vinland, and is downloadable free at Amazon or Smashwords. I encourage refutation and arguments as to why it (or something similar) is not the most plausible explanation.

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    It’s a fact that 60% of all runestones found in Scandinavia had been moved from their original location. The KRS was probably no different. Farley Mowat was the first to suggest the runestone was moved by Indians. It really doesn’t matter whether the stone came from east-central Minnesota, as indicated by Wolter’s testing, or west-central Minnesota. The fact remains: the runestone was carved on an ISLAND–keep in mind the area was in the midst of a severe drought and Olof’s hill could not have been an island–and the “sea” was 14 days travel away. From Ohman’s hill to the sea–any sea–in that short of time is an “impossible” journey. Why are folks stuck on the idea that Olof’s hill was the original resting place of the stone?
    Given the fact that the Dakota worshiped granite stones do you really think they would leave it if they discovered it? They would take it and stash it away for sure.

    • Lynn Brant says:

      There is absolutely zero evidence the stone was transported (other than by the glacier), so the parsimonious conclusion is that it was deposited on “Olof’s hill” by the carver (or his allies). But I doubt it was ever in the ground there.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    Excellent post and I agree completely. The rune stone makes no sense whatsoever as an authentic 1362 artifact. It is almost as difficult to make sense of as a 19th century forgery, but I believe I have done so.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    When you consider that the 1362 date is in two dating systems, it’s hard to believe it was meant to be anything other than it is. I’d be willing to bet the 19th century author knew nothing of Minnesota and its history.

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    The stone DOES make sense when you place the 1362 events at the Dakota’s Spirit Lake (Mille Lacs).

    And you are right about the lack of evidence for the stone being moved to Olof’s hill, but the same goes for every other theory out there–including yours. All I’m trying to do here is to draw attention to Aquipaguetin Island as a candidate for further research by the State Archaeologist. If I’m wrong, we can rule it out and go on with the quest. Besides, the island/peninsula has only had surface examinations in 1900, by Brower, and in 1933, by Jenks.

    It wasn’t until the mid-1980′s when researchers realized the runes were NOT written in Old Swedish, but rather in Old Buhuslansk–a combination of Old Norwegian, Old Swedish, and Old Danish. Pretty good trick for a 19th-century author, wouldn’t you say?

    My daughter-in-law is related to Olof’s former neighbor–Lloyd Olson. Lloyd grew up with the Ohman boys and attended the same church. I had the pleasure of interviewing him on three separate occasions before his death. I can sum up what he imparted to me in four words: “Olof never carved anything!”
    I suggest you seek out an old timer from the Kensington area and have a word or two with them about the stone. Maybe you will change your mind about the integrity of the Ohman family.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Re-read the post. I think that Olof Ohman was the victim, not the perpetrator of the hoax.

      • Lynn Brant says:

        I agree, Olof was the victim in the sense that he was the willing dupe. The scenario that best fits the evidence is that someone went to a great deal of trouble and expense to do a very sophisticated forgery and plant it for Olof to find. I don’t believe Olof had anything to do with this plot until he was recruited as finder in the final stages. He did not find it – he contrived to find it. His motivation was the same as the motivation of many over a hundred years later – to advance the legend so much a part of ethnic pride in Minnesota that Vikings or Norse had been there long before Columbus. I believe Olof believed that he was ultimately serving the truth, but if the rune stone is not authentic, he lied.

        How could all that have happened? I found the best way to present the scenario was in the form of a short story. It is available for free down load as a pdf or any of the files for readers here. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/293452

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    To think for a minute that Olof perpetrated the lie until he went to the grave is absolutely preposterous! As I said before, Nils Flaaten was at the discovery site the day BEFORE and nothing had been disturbed. The site is also visible from three roads. For someone to sneak up the hill with a 202# stone, without being seen, and dig a hole underneath a tree and bury it is would have been quite the trick.
    Olaus Olson, Olof Ohman, Nils Flaaten, Edward Ohman, Roald Bentson, Sam Olson, Joe Hotvedy, John Hedberg, Cleve Van Dyke, and Arthur Ohman all observed the flatness of the roots which held the stone. Again, pretty good trick if it was faked. Are you inferring that all these good folks were all duped by a city slicker? Olof had six children at the time and was a church- going Christian. I grew up in a town of Swedes and I can’t ever remember a single lie ever told by these honest, hard-working farmers. They would rather lose a limb than tell a lie.
    If the stone is fake, why did the author include a reference to a “14-day journey to the sea?” Wouldn’t he have simply said they had ten men back at the sea? Without a time frame the stone could have been buried anywhere and the story would fit. Any why include a Catholic prayer? And why not carve the runes in the dialect everyone spoke in Douglas County–the “A” dialect. The runes are written in the “E” dialect.
    The only victim here is history. Olof had nothing to gain.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I agree completely. Olof Ohman is a very unlikely perpetrator of a fraud: all his actions from the discovery of the stone onwards suggest that he was mystified by it and perhaps even a bit embarrassed. I am worried by Nils Flaaten’s supposed observation that the roots of the tree were undisturbed on the previous day: why would anyone even notice them? It makes me almost wonder about his involvement in the discovery…

      Nevertheless, the balance of probability is that it is a hoax. If Ohman wasn’t the hoaxer, who was? It really has to be someone in the local community of “honest, hard-working farmers”, not the “city slicker” that you have invented. Who knows what unspoken tensions there may have been in the community. Were the Ohmans relative newcomers? Did Olof or one of his family somehow offend someone to the point that they wanted to discredit the Ohman family? We will never know the answers to questions like these, but I think that they may help us to formulate an hypothesis about why the fraud was carried out.

      I don’t follow your argument that “[i]f the stone is fake, why did the author include a reference to a “14-day journey to the sea?” Wouldn’t he have simply said they had ten men back at the sea?”. Surely, the same reasoning would apply to a genuine party of fourteenth-century explorers: if, as I believe likely, the stone is a hoax, adding in details like this is done for verisimilitude. A hoax is all the more satisfying to the hoaxer if the little details all seem plausible. I am thinking here of the forged De Situ Britanniae, a supposedly fourteenth-century account of Roman Britain, actually forged by an Englishman living in Copenhagen in the middle of the eighteenth century, Chalres Julius Bertram (1723-1765). His fraud included all sorts of little details such as supposed lacunae in the manuscript he claimed to be copying and the confirmation of conjectures by seventeenth-century antiquaries. It fooled many people for more than a century.

      I’m not qualified to judge linguistic details of the dialect, but the inclusion of the post-medieval word opþagelsefardþ seems a killer fact: it simply could not have been written in the fourteenth century, regardless of the dialect, as the word had not yet entered any Scandinavian language.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    So much beating around the bush here. The fact is – the rune stone “could be” an authentic 14th century artifact. There is nothing about it, physically or linguistically that “proves” it cannot be. No-one will EVER prove that it is either authentic, or a forgery. All that is left, all that has ever been left, is to decide which scenario is more parsimonious and fits best with the small amount of factual evidence. I submit that the best fit scenario is that portrayed in my short story, “Far to the West of Vinland.” I’m still waiting for someone to tell me why that didn’t happen, or what explains the facts better. By the way, I am working on a follow-up story that will explain even more. Not a sequel or a prequel, more of a “side-quel.”

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      There are two things I regard as clinchers in favour of the hoax hypothesis: that nasty little word opþagelsefardþ, which cannot have been written down in the fourteenth century as it had not yet been borrowed from French (and, in case you’re tempted to argue that we may one day discover earlier instances, the form of the French word from which it is a borrowing did not exist before the sixteenth century); and the complete lack of historical context.

      That’s not “beating around the bush”: that’s a pretty emphatic no!

  • Lynn Brant says:

    The linguistics of the KRS bores me to no end. It is the one dimension that has been all over the board for over a hundred years. Neither you or I are runology experts, but I guess Henrick Williams is. And he says it could be authentic and nothing about the inscription proves it isn’t. He doesn’t “believe” it is authentic, but doesn’t agree that there is anything that couldn’t be 1362. So for now, I’m going with that. Besides, I don’t need a clincher. The burden of proof is on the claim that it is authentic. And since there is virtually no provenance, and only one man and his teenage son attesting to the find, I say it is a forgery until proven otherwise.

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    To hear you (Lynn) say that, “No-one will EVER prove that it is either authentic, or a forgery,” is unbelievable. Sooner or later the truth always comes out. In the case of the Kensington Runestone, what if another runestone turns up? What if the graves are discovered? What if a 14th-century manuscript from Bohuslan is found containing the same futhork as the KRS? What if a medieval artifact from Minnesota passes the litmus test? All these scenerios are possible. Whoever carved the runestone probably didn’t stop there. After chiseling over 200 characters on a granite-like stone, wouldn’t you think the carver would have put his name or date on another rock nearby?
    And Kieth, one wrong(?) word is not enough to judge the entire text. It’s no different than a college English professor grade an essay written by a second grader: “How I sbent my sumer vakashun.” it’ got to be a hoax. Right?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Well, Jim, you have hit the nail on the head. If there were Scandinavians in fourteenth-century Minnesota, they ought to have left other traces. Should such traces ever turn up and, more importantly, be authenticated, then they would be further positive evidence for the genuineness of the Kensington Runestone. That they have not so far is a fairly important piece of negative evidence.
      However, the one wrong word isn’t a misspelling as in your hypothetical example. It would be like reading the word “microprocessor” on a Roman inscription: the word didn’t exist in any of the medieval germanic languages (including the Scandinavian branches), but was a Romance language formation first attested in sixteenth-century French, mimicked in Dutch and German before being adopted from them into Scandinavian languages until the late sixteenth or seventeenth century. Even then, it remained obscure until it was popularised in 1888 in a work on the Vinland settlements. I see something more than coincidence at work here and it smells fraudulent.

      • James Willmus says:

        In defense of the idea of no other evidence being found, it is important to note, as you have mentioned in your article (very well written by the way) no major excavation has been done yet in the immediate area. of where the Runestone was found. If no one is looking, then the odds of discovering possible new evidence is very low. I understand the reason for the lack of interest from the scholar community (and archaeological, and anthropological communities) since there are several good reasons to not explore this case, especially if you are a respected person within your field. First, if the stone were proven to be true, it would certainly further eat away at Columbus’ legacy which has been glorified by Europeans and particularly the Spanish. Secondly, to be brutally honest, there are a lot more important discoveries waiting.

        Even if Norsemen came to central Minnesota all those years ago, they never made it back to tell the story. It would be like a human race in the future finding evidence for Apollo eleven’s moon landing. To Americans, this is a large part of our legacy and an important moment in our history, but in the grand scheme of things humans merely went a step further than their ancestors did, one small step within a very long trail.

        Third, there is also a very real possibility that this rune-stone is fake, with a much a smaller, but still sizable possibility that the stone is real. Scientists don’t like to gamble, they do have their own reputations to uphold after all, so analyzing this mystery with the intent of discovering the truth is a gamble on a scholar’s good name and a possible waste of resources, time, and money.

        What do I personally think of this idea? I don’t believe this is some elaborate hoax, it just seems to be too complicated an argument to say that the rune-stone was carved, aged, and planted beneath a tree in a highly visible spot with the Intent of A. ruining Olaf’s good name or B. to create a controversy or C. to make profit for an unknown third party. If I know Minnesotans, all we have to do to stir up a debate is simply to accuse that the surveying markers are 10 feet off within the section (that’s a story for another day). Whether in 1362 some brave Norsemen managed to get themselves lost in a land full of wilderness and hostile natives is also unlikely, but history is full of holes, and so I personally believe it is more likely that an unrecorded expedition set out and got lost and died in central Minnesota. For the Vikings, the 14th and 15th centuries were times of great change, is it not possible that a few men decided to leave and look for a brighter horizon beyond the sea just as the Pilgrams did?

        Your one word from the future is a much more puzzling topic, and all I have to say on that matter is since history is full of holes, it is possible that a phrase appears earlier than previously thought. As for the reason, I have none yet, but my lack of knowledge does not discredit a wholeheartedly true idea that history can be deceiving and doesn’t always point to the truth directly. A good comparison is that approximately 1% of all life has been preserved as a fossil, therefore 99% still remains undiscovered. Following that principal, we know almost nothing about what really happened centuries back with the exception of a few documents and known points which have survived the ages. The Runestone may be something that historians did not anticipate, nor do they think highly of it, but that doesn’t mean that the stone is false based on previous hypothesis.

        • James Willmus says:

          Sorry, fourth paragraph I was implying that despite a recorded expedition being unlikely; I would believe this story more than the argument you have presented since analyzing a stone is only one piece of the puzzle. Since it is unknown what happened, it is still possible, even if unlikely, that a group of explorers went a bit too far into the continent. My main point in my argument is that what scholars believe is the truth isn’t always necessarily correct, and so new things can come up which could alter our perspective. That is why I believe that everything should initially be taken with some level of seriousness, and each new artifact should only be deemed a hoax when a very obvious, unmistakable, and very well defined problem exists in the hypothesis presented. For instance, to believe the stone is a hoax on the basis of a word which (keep in mind) to our knowledge did not exist until 3 centuries later is a compelling argument, but it does not take into account the fact, the very important fact, that not everything is known in history. The word had to come from somewhere, and perhaps this was a slag word, or a modification of a traditional word for some time before it became commonplace in writing.

          This word is not like microprocessor in ancient texts, but more like the word “Truthiness” It was spoken for quite some time (although not very much) and yet it was just recently added to the Oxford Dictionary. Technically, “Truthiness” is a word which can now be used in writting if one wishes to, even though I don’t recommend it because it sounds stupid. But my point is therefore proven plausible since this phrase is not common in writing, yet it is a culturally accepted word.

    • Lynn Brant says:

      There are thousands of tantalizing mysteries in the world that no-one will ever prove one way or the other, simply because there is no source of new information unless, as you say, something else comes out of the ground. Waiting for that is like waiting for the aliens to show up.

      There seems to be an assumption that “if” the KRS is a forgery, the forger would have cared about his work surviving as viable over the years. In fact, he didn’t care about that. Neither the carver, nor his patron, had any concern with fooling anyone beyond those in Minnesota, and for no more than a decade or so.

  • Jim Pluimer says:

    Let’s talk about coincidences. The period from 1250 to 1350 was called “The Golden Age of Trade.” Goods flowed between the east and west with little trouble. One of these routes, the Silk Road, all but closed after 1350. This northern trade route affected Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in particular. One of Scandinavia’s top three medieval trade items was spice, which was still available from the infidels (Arabs), and Venetians, but at a premium price. By 1350 the Haseatic League controlled all trade in the Baltic Sea except for spice. Surely maps of Vinland existed, and a passageway going west from Vinland could have been mistaken for a shortcut to China. The idea is not that far fetched when you consider Cartier made the same mistake over 170 years later (1534). The One thing the Hanseatic League DIDN’T have was trans-Atlantic saing capabilities, which the Norwegians did have. Since spice was the biggest money maker in those days, one would think someone would have taken the chance.
    The language of the stone is Bohuslan, which was part of Norway in the 1300′s. Bohuslan was north of the Kattegat (Cat’s Throat). This is important as all traffic sailing west from the Baltic had to pass through the Kattegat. A brigade if Norwegian knaars would have stuck out like a sore thumb and would have been stopped(the Hansa used cogs).
    Another motivating factor was herring, an important resource for Norway. By 1350 this too was lost to the Hansa.
    The most likely candidate for funding the 1360-62 mission was Dragsmark Abbey in Bohuslan. The abbey, dedicated to the Virgin Mary (AVM?), had plenty of money, and was located just north of the shipbuilding center on the island of Orust.
    Spice was the motivating factor in the Age of Discovery. Our medieval mission west of Vinland was no different, just a bit before their time.
    Another coincedence that ties in with my Aquipaguetin Theory is the Village of Vineland on the west side of Mille Lacs Lake. Vineland was named after Vinland. Add up the pentadic numbers on the KRS and you get 46. Is it a coincedence that Aquipaguetin Island is 46 degrees latitude? Coincedence? We can shake that tree until there’s no leaves left.

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  • James Willmus says:

    So how does one solve this intriguing mystery? I myself have seen that rune-stone and I grew up on a farm South of Alexandria. Needless to say, this stone is often brought up in conversation. What I find most puzzling about the stone is how the case was handled by scholars and by the discoverers. When discovering something new, the first and best thing to do is to leave it be and call someone out. Olaf was probably more concerned about clearing his new field than preserving a potentially important artifact. By removing the stone and continuing his work on the new field, Olaf unknowingly destroyed the best support for the stone.

    However the lack of seriousness does not end with Olaf. After the first report done on the stone by Olaus Breda (I think I spelled that right) and was found to be fake, it is likely that other scholars did not take the stone with the level of seriousness which would be deserving of an artifact found in the old world. Further more, and much more supportive evidence for my argument, no one to my knowledge has led a serious and widespread search for more artifacts. When something is discovered which has some significance, archaeologists usually attempt to mount an excavation and search for new evidence. Nothing serious has been done about this case simply because scholars refuse to look deeper into the matter. If the stone said that 10 men were killed, there would be a grave site wouldn’t you think?. How about other tools near the area the stone was uncovered? Since no one has searched, then of course no supporting evidence has been found.

    Another area which could help explain the stone’s origin I know has never been looked at. While there were no European witnesses to what may have happened, there were witnesses none the less. To date, no one has done a report asking the local native tribes about the stone or of stories regarding strangers in their territory. The only complicated part about this side of the story is that tribes of native Americans were at war with each other, and therefore the territory boundaries were in a constant state of flux. In Minnesota, three main tribes are still present, the Sioux, Ojibwe, and the Chippewa; but there are also other tribes to consider in this mystery. From what I know about native american history, the Sioux nation and Ojibwe nation were rivals with each other. To make matters even more complicated, there are technically several bands within each collective nation. For example, within the Sioux nation there are the:

    LAKOTA – or Teton: Prairie Dwellers – with Seven Bands:

    Oglala – They Scatter Their Own or Dust Scatters
    Sicangu – or Brule: Burnt Thighs
    Hunkpapa – End of the Circle
    Miniconjous – Planters Beside the Stream
    Sihasapa – or Blackfeet: NOTE – not the commonly known Blackfeet/Blackfoot Tribe
    Itazipacola – or Sans Arcs: Without Bows; also known as Oohenupa/Two Boilings or Two Kettles”

    THE DAKOTA OR SANTEE – with Four Bands:

    Mdeakantonwon:
    Wahpeton
    Wahpekute
    Sisseton

    THE NAKOTA OR YANKTON with Three Bands:

    Yankton
    Upper Yankton
    Lower Yankton

    Even though they all call themselves Sioux in some fashion or another, probably only a select few lived in the immediate area to Kensington. The Native Americans have hundreds of stories, many of which can be contributed to actual events that white men know about. I do fear, however plausible this stone may be (or how fake it appears) that such a mystery will not be looked at too closely. Those that supported the stone’s authenticity were burned by those who refuse to look deeper into the matter, and thus there seems to exist an atmosphere where neither side wishes to answer the central question. Furthermore, I know for a fact that Native Americans have traditionally been ignored in every possible definition of the word. When the Franklin expedition disappeared in the northwest passage, no one asked the Inuit who lived there and likely were Franklin’s last contact with people before disappearing in the ice. No one asked the Inuit until only a few decades ago; and when asked, the Inuit told the interviewers a story bout how they saw a ship get stuck in the ice, and they watched from a distance as one by one the crew were killed off by starvation and disease.

    While I can hardly claim the above statements as hard evidence (which I certainly do not), my argument is this about the runestone:

    The stone may be a hoax, but there is also still some unexplained evidence which suggests otherwise such as the relative age of the stone and the methods by which the scholars and linguists studied the stone. Furthermore, it is clear to me that not all outlets for this case have been examined carefully and in depth. Possible witnesses accounts of the Norsemen have not been looked into nor has there been any major serious excavation of the land near where the stone was planted. Men are imperfect, men make mistakes, and scholars certainly had their own interests in the matter, so while scholar’s opinions are valuable and reputable, it is not absolute nor is it fact. Therefore I deduce that such a case needs further exploration before a definite answer can be given. To me, the case simply hasn’t been explored to the extent which it should. My final comment is that even though many reports have been filed about the rune-stone, most cover the same ground as the report before. In other words, no new exploration has really been done on this artifact in quite some time.

    • Jim Pluimer says:

      1. James: Runestone Hill was excavated in 1899. The top four feet of soil was dug up and nothing was found. Again in 1976 — nothing was found. That’s because they were looking in the wrong place?
      2. Ojibwe and Chippewa are the same band.
      3. If the runestone was carved on Aquipaguetin Island the Mdewakanton would have had control of it when they left the Mille Lacs area. The stone was brought to Minnetonka in 1755. Then in 1850 it was brought to Runestone Hill by the Mdewakanton.
      4. Remember, no one was traveling inland by water in 1362 because of the drought.
      5. Aquipaguetin Island is 14 days from the sea.
      6. Ask any Dakota about sacred stones and they will give you an earful. The runestone’s secret may have been known to only a handful of Mdewakantons and it went to the grave with them when they were executed at Ft Snelling in 1862.
      7. If the debate is to continue archaeologists must start looking at Mille Lacs.

      • James Willmus says:

        If there indeed was a drought, which it appears you explained in some comment above, I’ll retract my statement that vikings sailed to the spot. it does make me wonder though, based on the data you gave. Even if in a drought, were the water levels at a low for the period of time, or were these all time lows which haven’t been beaten yet? However, there still would have been a river (riverbed) to follow regardless of a drought or not. Vikings traveled by water, whether they were in ships or on foot. As for the Chippewa and Ojibwe being the same band, that was my fault completely. I was checking and editing and missed my mistake.

        Now for my main point. If the stone was moved, as you say, then yes, archaeologists were looking in the wrong place. If the stone wasn’t moved, there is no reason camp wasn’t one hill over, or closer to a lake. So yes, if nothing was found, all they might have to do is look a whole 100-200 feet away and something could come up. What would be equally tedious than excavating a large area would be to track down and give likely locations that the vikings would have camped at. If they all died, they would have left something for us to find, but the scope of field research has been limited to one hill out of a million. Obviously, not every hill can be excavated, but the probability of something being somewhere is high. And as for the four feet of top soil, after several decades of farming, soil will mix and turn over, therefore any object in the ground could end up lower or higher in the top soil. Four feet is a decent depth, but I know that good farming soil in that region goes deeper than that, even at the top of a hill.

        For your main point that it was forgery. I have not yet seen or could come up with a reason why it would be forgery. If this was driven by a feud or bad feelings, it certainly was an odd way to get revenge on someone. And as you pointed out, If the forger was out for profit, they didn’t push it enough to squeeze a penny out of it. Plus, if it was a forgery, I would think someone would have tried to make it more ‘standard’ for the era the stone was supposed to represent. There are holes in history, and things we do not know. There is always something new to discover that fills in a small part of the many holes we have of our past. To say it is a forgery based purely on the opinions of scholars who, quite frankly, probably had better things to do with their time than look at a giant rock, is a little narrow minded. Yes, their opinions should be taken into account, but that is not material evidence. So if someone really wants to find the truth, more digging is necessary than what has been done. So yes, actual excavation and research has been lacking. You are saying that in 120 years, the site has been excavated twice, and in a very select location. To me, that doesn’t seem to be enough. Finally, if it really was a forgery, you’ll need to explain how it was found in roots from a tree that had been there longer than Olaf or any other neighbor in the area. And in case you can’t find out how, it would be because digging up a tree, planting the stone, and reburying the tree is much more work than it was worth over a little land dispute. Not to mention, we’re not Hatfields and McCoys, Minnesotans simply don’t go that far for any reason with one exception, the 1862 hanging of about 100 Sioux warriors. Fear drives men to do stupid things.

        As for the real weight of the situation, really the stone isn’t that big of news. Even if Vikings made it into Minnesota, They likely didn’t make it back. Plus, settlements in Newfoundland and the Northeast have Viking written all over it, so they did make it to America way before Columbus was even born. Columbus, for all the hype he’s worth, never set foot on the Continent so technically he did not discover America. What is perhaps more significant is to track Japan and China, who may in fact have found America before any European. I’m also more interested in looking at how Native Tribes have moved and changed through the years. To me, that is much more important than a few lost men wondering the Minnesota wilderness, and a lot less research has been done on these subjects which seem to hold much more information than any rock found in the ground with writing on it.

        • Lynn Brant says:

          These questions are all addressed by my short story, “Far to the West of Vinland” which is a free download at Amazon and aslo at Smashword.com where it is available in pdf and Nook formats as well.
          Links are on my website.

  • Timothy McAllister says:

    “Vinland”, as discovered on the eastern coastland of Canada in the 1960s was unknown to the settlers of Minnesota in the 1880s.
    Additionally, it has been ‘relearned’ that when properly doing a runic inscription that a secondary message is encoded within the primary message. The secondary message supposedly inscribed in the Kensington Stone is “Olaf wrote this”.
    Finally, it is hard to expect “proper language” from a semi-literate populous.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      The concept of Vinland was well known to the Swedish settlers in nineteenth-century Minnesota, as it was part of their schooling. What wasn’t known was its location, and there were all sorts of speculations about where it might have been. I see the Kensington Runestone as fitting into this highly speculative attempt to find the Vikings in the closing decades of the nineteenth century.

      I think that the “secondary message” you refer to is mentioned here. A lot of the comments on this post are hugely sceptical of the results. I’m not aware that there is any evidence that runic inscriptions would contain a secondary message “encoded within the primary message”: if you know of any, could you point me toward it, please?

      • Jim Pluimer says:

        I totally agree with you Keith. To think a message was encoded within the message is pretty far fetched.
        “GRAL AR” — you bet! The Holy Grail is in Minnesota — not.
        “OLAF WROTE THIS” — too bad he misspelled his own name (Olof).
        Here’s a hidden code that everyone has missed (except me, of course): If you add up the pentadic numbers they equal 46. Runestone Hill is 45.9 degrees latitude.
        This little coincedence also applies to Aquipaguetin Island which is 46 degrees latitude. But to think the carver was aware of this is, well, dreaming. Coincedences are just that — coincedences.

        Here’s an archaeological oddity that I think you (Keith) might like. I warn you it’s another “coincedence.”
        If the ten men “red with blood and dead” died at Mille Lacs, and we’re interred at Kathio, evidence should exist to support this. I draw your attention to the Cooper Site and one particular mound that was excavated. As an archaeologist you are probably familiar with the Indian mounds around the Mille Lacs Lake area. One peculiar trait of these mounds is the lack of funerary objects — except for one mound at the Cooper Site that contained TEN individuals and 102 associated funerary objects. Other mounds in the vicinity yielded only a few objects in each. What was so special about the mound with ten individuals?

        Let’s face it — the bones are gone — the trail of evidence is gone — but we have no shortage of coincidences. The only proof will be another carving — be it another runestone or a rock in the vicinity of the site of the original carving. Someday, perhaps not in our time, the truth will come out — one way or the other.

  • Keith says:

    How could anyone else be responsible for the hoax? Carve a fake stone, bury it under a tree, and hope someone finds it?

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Given that the land was Federal Land until about 1890, it was open to anyone; people would have been aware that it was to be sold off for development as farmland, so anyone wanting to salt the site could have done so around that time. I don’t know if they would have expected it to be discovered quite so soon as it was. Even so, it had long enough in the ground for root marks to be apparent on it.
      I really can’t see Olof Ohman as the hoaxer, as nothing in his behaviour in the initial months after the stone’s discovery indicates that he was trying to get it passed off as genuine. He does seem to have been in awe of the experts and it was only after Hjalmar Holand’s involvement in the stone that Ohman seems to have taken it at all seriously.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    Those marks just happen to look like root marks. They are likely glaciation and thousands of years old. Is there a source with credentials saying those marks could have been caused by tree roots in only 20 years? I still find it pretty obvious that Olof participated in a contrived finding, and that the real perp who created it told him to just find it and let the chips fall where they may. I’ll bet that perp never dreamed we would still be talking about it over 100 years later.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I suspect that we two will never agree on the identity of the forger. I find your scenario plausible, apart from the involvement of Olof Ohman, who seems to me to have been an innocent dupe.

      • Lynn Brant says:

        I don’t think we are as far apart as you seem to. I also think he was an innocent dupe. No way was he the primary perp – he didn’t have time or resources for such pranks, and he couldn’t have created the inscription. BUT, because I find it implausible that the real perp went to as much trouble as he did with what we now know was a sophisticated inscription, then buried it not knowing if it would ever be found. If that was what happened, then without the luck of the tree growing over it, it would still be in the ground today. I have to think the real perp would have ensured that it was found, and I suspect that he was disappointed interest didn’t take off, but could hardly intervene. As for Olof, he probably spent the rest of his life wondering wtf had happened. I don’t blame him if he lied, which I think he did. I can see how he may have been manipulated, and I wonder if I had been in his place, would I have done the same? I may have.

  • Dave says:

    Why would a group of men who were in an area with hostile natives who had just killed ten of their party take the time to carve in stone this account? Most likely they would have quickly buried their dead in accordance with tradition and fled the area as soon as possible.

    • Lynn Brant says:

      Pretending for a moment that the stone is really from 1362, it doesn’t say the deaths happened in the place where the stone was left, and it doesn’t say the ten men were from their party. And it doesn’t say anything about Indians. The more interesting question is why did a forger choose a message like this?

      • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

        I still think that there may be a connection with the 1862 massacre, even if only as something half-remembered by the forger.

      • Dave says:

        Hi Lynn,
        If we take the stone as fact it says the deaths happened “…one days journey north from this stone.” It also claims “After we came home we found 10 men red from blood and death.”

        This doesn’t leave much to go on, but it’s safe to assume the carver would not bother taking the time to carve this to relate the deaths of ten men NOT affiliated with his party. Also if the stone is real and was not moved in the ensuing 500 or so years then a Scandinavian camp with ten graves should be located roughly “…one days journey north…”from where the stone was discovered.

        Who else would attack their party? Was there another unknown Viking party in the area? It’s safe to conclude that the ten dead men would be from this party and the attackers would be natives who were not happy with foreigners on a “…reclaiming/plundering journey…” on their lands. If real I still hold that nobody would take the time to carve this account in stone especially considering they knew they were in hostile territory they were unfamiliar with facing an enemy who both knew the terrain and could move quickly. A one day journey is not far for a local native hunting party.

        Looking at how archaeologists gather evidence the forger would know that if taken as legitimate there would be an archaeological dig on the site of the stone looking for any other artifacts to use for proper dating. Placing the camp “…one days journey north…” from the stone makes it nearly impossible to ever locate the camp site, which is a good thing for a forger.

        The message is clearly designed to allege Scandinavian exploration of what is now the continental United States over 100 years prior to Columbus. I also think Keith has a good idea with the 1862 massacre link. People would remember that date and this would play on their emotions.

    • Jim Pluimer says:

      Good question, Dave. If the Norse were camped with the Dakota Indians at Garrison Creek (Mille Lacs Lake) they would have been attacked from the west by enemies of the Dakota. To think for a second the survivors took the time to carve a runestone instead of moving their camp does not make sense as you stated. However, if the action took place at Garrison Creek the Dakota would have escorted the Norse a day’s journey south to the fortified villages in Kathio. The stone does not say that ALL ten victims were Norse; some of the dead could have been Dakota. In that scenario the Dakota would have been interred at Kathio — as custom dictates. The Norse were put on Aquipaguetin Island for safety. The dead were buried, the runestone was carved, and they made their way back to Superior in 14 days — by way of the Old Superior Trail.
      It all makes sense when you place the events of 1362 at the Spirit Lake of the Dakota.
      What a strange twist: the carving of the stone and the Sioux (Dakota) Uprising — 1362 – 1862 — 500 years on the button!

      • Lynn Brant says:

        What’s likely is that the forger of the KRS incorporated a subtle reference to the 1862 event in the inscription, hence the 1362 date. But I agree, if you begin with the assumption that the KRS really is from 1362, you can go wild with speculation from there.

      • Dave says:

        Interesting thought, Jim, there could have been tribes who would side with the Norse. The stone is so vague that it opens so many venues of conjecture. This could make a good action movie.

  • Pontus says:

    The most likely form of transportation for the carver should have been train. Either one of the suggested waterways is just ludicrous.

  • James Willmus says:

    I’d like to bring new evidence to the table which to my knowledge has not yet been brought up in this discussion. In South Dakota, where I live, there is a now extinct tribe of Indians called the Pre-Arikaras (sorry, I can’t spell the name) These natives lived near the rivers of South Dakota. Years ago, a site was uncovered that appeared to be built by natives, but….

    …it was of European style including Bastions and having a river with a spring bringing water into the center of the fortress. This thing could easily house and feed a large number of people. It is of perfect design, holding the high ground above the Missouri River, and has a perimeter of 2000 yards. This was completely different from the shelters usually used by natives out on the plains. They were hunter-gatherers, and therefore would normally be nomadic.

    But here is the best part about this fortress, dating done on what was excavated was pre-Columbus, and in fact the year pin pointed was 1362!

    But here is what amazes me most, the Runestone mentions an Island, and water being two weeks away. Well the Missouri is wide, navigable by boat, especially in late spring and early summer as the snow melts.

    So… somehow this is important. This fort isn’t a hoax, can’t be a hoax, and does not fit with native culture or war tactics.

    –James

    • Lynn Brant says:

      That’s interesting. Is there even one archeologist who agrees with that? By the way, I have a new essay called “Kensington: The Story and the Stone” that will soon be available on Amazon and smashwords, free of course. If anyone would like a copy in the meantime, email me and I’ll send you a pdf.

      • James Willmus says:

        Lynn,

        Upon researching the tribe who the fort was used by, it turns out they had some agriculture, so they did have a use for the fort, but that doesn’t explain the design or why it was placed in such a strategic location. The design, placement, and defenses of the fort seem to be European. Look on Google Maps about 1 mile south and a little East of the airport in Pierre, SD, on the north bank of the river as it runs southeast. About 500 yards inland, you can see 3 walls built over a small hill with a creek running down the center of the site.

    • Gary says:

      James, where is this site? Does it have a name? Where did you get the idea that it had been “pin pointed” to 1362? Was it from an artifact? I ask because dating a site is never so precise unless there is something with a date on it, for example. Other than the date, the information you have given can be found entirely on a picture of an old marker on the internet.

      • James Willmus says:

        I do not have the name, but there is a historical marker along road 34 about 1 mile south of the Pierre Airport, and I can see about half of the perimeter wall on Google Maps. I believe and excavation was done and the date was pinpointed through carbon dating on whatever objects were found, at least tha’ts archaeology standard procedure. Going back only a few hundred years, Carbon dating should be accurate to within a couple years. Again, I don’t know the name of it, but it was determined to be pre-Arikaras. I’ve been scouring the Internet looking for more information, but this site seems to be largely forgotten. Only reason I know of the sites existence is the historical marker along the road and about 1 paragraph in a textbook I own from 2 years ago. I should also modify my earlier statements; upon researching the tribe mentioned in the book, it was said they were about half way agricultural and half way hunter/gatherer, depending on the season and the available resources. This site is about 300 years before the Dakota Territory developed a horse culture, so hunting and travel was done on foot. Therefore, the tribe likely built the fort; so forget my ‘theory’ from the earlier post. However, that still does not explain the European design, which no other tribe on the continent used.

    • Scott Doering says:

      James, I also live in South Dakota. I’ve heard nothing about this Fortress found. Can you provide better details?

      • James Willmus says:

        This address below provides a location and has a picture of the road sign. Copy and paste it into the web address bar and it should bring you to the site. The sign simply passes it off as a native american fortress, but I still maintain that plains Indians had no reason for moats and bastions, like the sign says. That’s not how native American’s fought their wars. They never laid siege to a fort, they would have informal tactics, not a formal army. To say that a ‘fortress’ is in the Dakotas that is older than the 15th century is curious to say the least. I plan to go personally see it when the snow thaws, maybe then I can take pictures.

        Here’s the address below. I plan to uncover as much info as I can:

        http://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=5d1494f0-9156-45e6-bc11-58ff34322a42

        Whoever built this thing had superiority over all surrounding tribes, which begs the question; why weren’t they here when the west was being settled? If a tribe did indeed build this fortress, then they would have had dominance over all the Sioux Tribes not to mention all those trade routes between tribes. Based on information I’ve managed to uncover, here is some stats on the ‘fortress’

        Perimeter of outside wall: about 2000 yards.
        Area within wall: 50 acres
        Approx dimensions: 400 by 600 yards (based on comparing perimeter to area)
        Bastions, moats, and other European design elements are apparently there.
        Has an Independent water source
        Located on a bluff overlooking a water way
        Has been dated to be built in the 14th Century (1300′s)(dating method I’m assuming is carbon dating)
        Was gone for sure by Lewis and Clark Expedition (otherwise they would have mentioned it in their journal)
        French Fur traders (who would have been in the area from about the 1700 on wards) gave no mention of a fort, although they did build their own trade post across the river and about a mile upstream.
        Waterway was navigable for large vessels, especially shallow draft boats

        This comes from information I pulled out of the textbook I ran across, the Internet website I posted the address to, and Google Maps, where I believe I saw at least two of the wall foundations. The property, or at least some of it, appears to be private so perhaps it hasn’t been explored in great detail.

        I’m thinking of setting up a temporary blog to store all my information I find on this structure. At this point, I don’t care who built it, I just want to know why it is smack dab in the middle of the Dakotas, why it was built with European design elements, and why is it that this Civilization disappeared when they would have clearly had military dominance in the area. Famine? Disease? Or was it an isolated population of outsiders?

        –James

        • James Willmus says:

          I’m replying to myself. I looked up the South Dakota State Archaeology website. The Mandan, the Arikaras, and their predecessors, lived in large earth lodges where the ground was sunk low, while the perimeter was built up into a wall like a snow fence. But snow fences don’t have, or need bastions. Snow fences also don’t need moats; which the Interpretive sign from the link in my previous post mentions. And, at least from Google Earth, I don’t see any building foundation outlines, or really anything other than the perimeter and what appears to be a couple of small retaining walls. Also, why build something so big? A 50 acre area would house a huge number of people and their belongings, much larger than most of the 2-5 family tribes that would roam the area.

          These people did build wooden Palisades, which is essentially a wall composed of logs sunk into the ground vertically, to keep wild animals, and sometimes other tribes, out of the village, but they didn’t leave a large footprint; whereas this ‘fortress’ sounds like it’s a lot heavier built than a normal Indian village.

  • Truth Seeker says:

    There seems to be far more problems with the “evidence” of the stone being a “fake” than there is with it being a legitimate artifact of the 1300s. As time progresses, more and more evidence is being uncovered that points to 2 possibilities as to its authenticity:

    (1) One being that the stone is a a genuine Norse artifact of the period. How it got there is unfortunately pretty much impossible to determine, an issue I will address later.

    (2) That the perpetrator of the “fraud” would have to have had a TIME MACHINE. How else would the “fraudster” have ANY knowledge of the variety of details related to the characters carved into the stone? Many of these details have been used in the past to debunk the stone as being legitimately from the 1300s. However, many details relating to the characters and their “anomalies” have been uncovered in only very recent time by scholars in Norway (etc). Previously unknown versions of Nordic runes, the discovery of the existence of secretive groups (etc) have only recently been discovered/uncovered by scholars. These groups, language changes, variations in textual forms, (etc) is is not at all unusual, especially during times of upheaval, such as the period in the 1200s/1300s connected to the incursion of Christianity into the Norse culture. These modern discoveries of information are conveniently disregarded by naysayers, and they continue to quote very, very dated ideas and opinions of those who have banked their status, lives, and careers on the opinions that the stone is a fraud. Many of those assumptions they cling to have been proven incorrect in recent times. Many of the arguments I see in the emails above above can be discarded entirely, as much more current and up to date, as well as credible modern research shows unequivocally that those ancient arguments are no longer at all relevant.

    Now, whether the stone was move to that location after it was created is unknown, as you would have to obtain that “time machine” that naysayers seem to want to prove that the “fraudster” obviously has.

    • Lynn Brant says:

      The problem with your conclusion is that there is not one, NOT ONE, runic scholar who says there is anything about the KRS that could not have been done in the 19th century. My short story, “Far to the West of Vinland,” is a fictional account of how the KRS could have been, and probably was, created in the 1890s. My essay, “Kensington: The Story and the Stone,” takes a hard look at just what the evidence for authenticity really is, and why the KRS is a cultural phenomenon more than an archeological artifact. Both are available as FREE Kindle downloads at Amazon.com, and as FREE downloads in multiple file formats at Smashwords.com. A real truth seeker would read them both.

  • Greg monzenero says:

    Curios-

    Has anyone ever considered the improbability/impossibility of travel to the runestone site via either superior or lake Winnipeg? These routes seem impassible w/ the superior route impossible and red river route improbable. I realize and understand the vikings were world class explorers and navigators, but it is almost impossible to assume they were able to navigate their way down to the red river.

    Regarding the Red river route: Take a moment to glance at a map of the unending labyrinth of lakes / streams to the north of lake Winnipeg. Having canoed many of these same waterways with modern maps and compases (even GPS!) I can attest to the difficulty of navigation in this maze. These lakes are littered with thousands of islands, bays, false inlets, other big lakes that dead end,etc. When you are actually on these waterways in northern Canada its all put into perspective. Frankly, I think it would be impossible to do it in one shot, let alone to find your way back through it. Does anyone know of any research on this?

    Regarding the Superior route: Yes the water portion is “easy”, but without any proof to back it up other than having been to Northern Minnesota many times, it’s very unlikely they were able to travel from Superior all the way to the site. It’s a trek of about 200 miles through unending swamps, lakes, hills, and extremely thick forest growth. If you’ve ever been to the Northwoods, you’d know this is impossible. Think about it…

    The route from the Red river to the site though is flat most of the way w/out the forest. This is far more likely.

  • Lynn Brant says:

    My problem is with the underlying assumption that Vikings or any other group would have any motivation or ability to select a site in MN, let alone be able to navigat there. The whole theory requires that you believe these “Vikings” – on the shores of a wilderness continent, turn their backs on Maritime Canada and New England, only to travel 1500 miles inland, in order to plant a weird rune stone, right…..THERE! And if that’s not coincidence enough, the area ends up being, centuries later, the most densely Scandinavian populated area in the country.

Agree or disagree? Please comment!