Several rune stones have been found in the United States, most notably the Kensington Runestone in Minnesota and the Heavener Stone in Oklahoma. There is considerable debate over their age and validity. The "Kensington Runestone" is a slab of gray stone, measuring 36 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 6 inches thick. It contains runic writing along the face of the stone and along one edge. The stone was found by a Minnesota farmer named Olaf Ohman in November of 1898 while a digging up a poplar tree stump on the southern slope of a 50-foot high knoll. The stone was buried face down about six inches below the surface, with the tree roots wrapped around it. Mr. Ohman and his sons saw the runic letters but did not know what they were.
Unfortunately, the stone was not left in place, so they were unable to demonstrate its obvious age from the growth pattern of the tree. The stone was sent to the University of Minnesota and then to Chicago. It was was studied by runic scholars, who interpreted the inscription to be an account of Norse explorers in the 14th Century. Many authorities who have since examined the stone have claimed it a forgery, but others are equally certain of its authenticity.
It is known King Magnus of Sweden sent that a party to Greenland in 1355. They never returned. It is very possible that these men were from that party. The stone bears the date of 1362. The transliteration of the text is generally accepted as:
"Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on a journey of exploration from Vinland very far west. We had camp by 2 rocky islands one day's journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. After we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM [Ave Maria] save us from evil."
The inscription along the edge of the stone says:
"Have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships 14 days' journey from this island. Year 1362."
The stone is now in the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota, near where the stone was found.
Update: At a 2000 conference in St. Paul, attended by archaeologists from about 20 states and three Canadian provinces, a Minnesota geologist and a Wisconsin chemist presented what they say is indisputable evidence that the runestone inscription is "real" and old, probably from the 1300s. Scott Wolter, president of American Petrographic services, is a licensed Minnesota geologist. He was instrumental in analyzing the stone's surfaces with Barry Hanson, a chemist and project manager for nonprofit archeology group, Archeology ITM, and Paul Weiblen, professor emeritus in geophysics at the University of Minnesota. Weiblen published a 45-page report on the mineralogy of the stone, and concludes that the carvings are significantly older than 1898, when it was discovered.
Possible Viking Routes to
Minnesota from Greenland:
via the Hudson Bay and the Nelson and Red Rivers
or via the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.
Dr. Richard Nielsen, president of Houston Texas-based Nielsen Engineering, studies linguistics as a hobby. His research involving 14th century legal documents known as "Swedish Diplomas", reveals linguistic evidence linking the writing style and expressions on the stone to the vernacular found in historical legal documents of the period between 1355 and 1375. During the 14th century many of the educated scribes died of the bubonic plague. Less educated writers introduced vernacular into the legal documents during that period. Download his 74-page article in PDF format.
Thomas Reiersgord, author of The Kensington Rune Stone: Its Place in History, believes that the "10 men red with blood", were not killed by Indians, but were victims of the bubonic plague, carried in its incubation period from Europe, by one or more carriers in the group. In its pneumatic form the plague spreads and kills rapidly, the victims vomiting blood as well as covered with bloody pustules.
The "Heavener Runestone" of Oklahoma is a slab about 12 feet high, 10 feet wide, and 16 inches thick with runic letters spelling out the word "Gaomedat". By reversing two runes which appear to be different from the others, the inscription becomes "Glomedal", or "Glome's Valley". It could also be rendered "G. Nomedal". Nomedal is a Norwegian family name. Thanks to the efforts of Gloria Farley, the area surrounding the stone is now the Heaven Rune Stone State Park. The stone is now protected inside a building erected around it. The official theory is that the stone was erected as a boundary marker between 600 A.D. and 900 A.D.
Old-timers related that there were many more stones in the area, but most were destroyed by treasure hunters in the 1930s and 1940s. Neither of the Heavener Runestones Numbers Two or Three have enough runes to render a translatable message. In 1967, another stone was found near Ponteau, Oklahoma.
The second stone, which measured 30 by 14 inches and 20 inches thick, shows 12-inch, three-pronged symbol on a stem, the runic "R". Below it on the side surface was a small mark which later proved to be a "bindrune," or combination of two runes. This stone is called "Heavener Runestone Number Two.
Inscription on Heavener #3
On Heavener Three an "X," a "turkey track," and an arrow shape: the runes for "G," "R," and "T," respectively. The letters, 6 to 9 inches tall, appear in a triangular pattern on a stone 5 1/2 feet long. Neither of the Heavener Runestones Numbers Two or Three have enough runes to render a translatable message.
The Poteau stone, found by schoolboys in 1967, is 15 inches long. There are seven characters in a straight line, l 1/2 to 2 inches high. The runes showed very plainly because the bottom of the grooves were in a lighter colored layer of the stone, while the surface was dark. Tool marks in the grooves showed that the letters had been made with a punch, like the Heavener Runestone. Four of the runes are duplicates of those on the Heavener Runestone, and three seemed to be variants of others on it. From the site of the Poteau stone, the Heavener Runestone on the side of Poteau Mountain lies about 10 miles to the southeast. The original sties of Heavener Runestones Numbers Two and Three fall in a line between them.
There are several more theories regarding the Heavener stones. In 1967, Alf Monge, a former US Army cryptographer asserted that the symbols are a runic puzzle, indicating a date, equivalent to November 11, 1012, St. Martin's Day, on our calendar. According to Monge, all of the cryptic runic messages in North American and those found in Stave Churches in Norway, are deciphered as dates of church holidays. He feels there is evidence that the creator of this puzzle and others found in North America was Eirik Gnupsson, known as Henricus, who was made Bishop of Greenland in 1112. Henricus was believed to have made several trips to Vinland and farther inland. Monge says Henricus left seven runic puzzles including the Kensington Rune Stone, the Heavener Rune Stone and the Spirit Pond Rune Stone. This is discussed in two books by O.G. Landsverk: Runic Records of the Norsemen in America, Erik J Friis Publisher, 1974, and Ancient Norse Messages on American Stones, Norseman Press, 1969., and in Earl Syversen's Norse Runic Inscriptions: with their long-forgotten cryptography, Vine Hill Press.
Monge's solution to the Poteau inscription is another date, November 11, 1017 A.D., exactly five years later than the date he said was on the Heavener Runestone. The seventh symbol on the Poteau Runestone is not in the standard runic alphabets but was a runic symbol for the numeral 17.
The early Norse calendar is based upon a cycle of 19 days, or Golden Numbers. The Younger Futhark was used to number those days. There are, of course, only 16 staves in the Younger Futhark, so three new symbols were devised to represent 17, 18, and 19.
Yet another stone was found in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Its five runes, all from the 24-rune Elder Futhark, spells out "MEDOK." Medok is similar to Madoc, the name of a Welsh prince. Ancient records state that he came to America in the year 1170 A.D., then returned to Wales for ten shiploads of colonists which he led up the Mississippi River. However, the Welsh did not use third century A.D. Norse runes and the name Medok is not Madoc. Alf Monge studied the inscription on the Shawnee Runestone and said it was another Norse cryptopuzzle, giving the date November 24, 1024 A.D.
While agreeing that the Heavener stone bears a cryptic message, Dr. Lee Woodward, a Sallisaw, Oklahoma minister, believes it is a monument to Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle, a French explorer, who was murdered in 1687. Woodward asserts that la Salle was killed in the area of Heavener, not in East Texas as is commonly believed. He concludes that the stone was carved by Gemme Hiens, whom he refers to as a "German-English linguistic and artistic genius who had been a companion of La Salle from 1684-1687... Hiens did his monument in form of a runic riddle, not wanting all to readily recognize what he was doing. His riddle called for identification of a 'Grandly Famous French Man and his dates' (G. NOM E (t) DAT(es). He then cleverly answered the riddle in a way which be very clearly seen at the monument (D' La Salle, 21 Novembre 1643-19 Mars 1687). Those are birth and death dates of La Salle." Dr Lee Woodward's theory is explained in his book, Secret La Salle Monument and Historical Marker,
Richard Nielsen, an American engineer and Norse scholar, feels that the runes should be read literally, not as puzzles. He says that the second and last runes on the Heavener Runestone, which had been considered an "A" and a "T," were actually versions of "L," and that the seventh rune on the Poteau inscription was a double "L" in the form of a bindrune, a combination of two runes using one vertical stroke for a stem line. Nielsen believes that all the runes on the Heavener, Poteau, and Shawnee inscriptions are from the Elder Futhark The Heavener runes transliterated into "G L O M E D A L." , "Glome's Valley". The Poteau runes read "G L O I A L L W (ALU)." He says that he found that "Gloi," is a nickname for "Glome," thus the two stones are related to the same man. The word "ALU" is a magical formula. This language was used around 600 A.D. and is the key to the new dating of the Oklahoma Runestones. The stones were made, according to Nielsen, between 600 and 900. Nielsen's essay "Early Scandinavian Incursions Into The Western States", discusses the Kensington runestone as well as the Heavener stone.
The Spirit Pond runestones were found in Maine in 1971. One bears a rough map of the area, the second has runic writing on one side. On the third, there are ten lines of runes on one side and six on the other. The inscription tells of a sudden storm and fearful men trying to save their ship from "the foamy arms of Aegir, angry god of the sea". This stone, too, has been called a hoax. I think that it is reasonable that Vikings, who were known to have built a settlement in Newfoundland, might very well have traveled south to Maine. As mentioned above, cryptologist Alf Monge believes that the stone is genuine, but its tale is not to be taken literally. He asserts that is a runic puzzle by Henricus, 12th century Bishop of Greenland.
Why the Kensington Runestone is Authentic, by Yuri Kuchinsky
Debunking the Kensington Stone Mystery by Timothy Mills
Is the Kensington Runestone the Genuine Article? Two American linguists find authentic mark of antiquity on the Kensington Stone; by Keith A.J. Massey and Kevin Massey-Gillespie
Kensington Runestone Information and Analysis - by Mike Zalar
Kensington Runestone by J. Huston McCulloch
Kensington Runestone Home Page by Bill Hoyt
Geologist thinks Kensington Runestone Not a Hoax , by Peg Meier / Star Tribune
Runestone Examined: Real or Hoax? by Scott Wolter and Sherry Veglahn, American Engineering Testing, Inc.
Cornell University News: Midwest explored by Scandinavians in Middle Ages, according to Robert A. Hall Jr., professor emeritus of linguistics.
Oklahoma Rune Stones - a chapter from Gloria Farley's book.
"In Plain Sight"--Old World Records in Ancient America - Gloria Farley's homepage.
Runic Proof - evidence of runic types found on the Codex Runicus
The Spirit Pond Stones and the Mysterious "Facts" of their Fabrication, by Suzanne Carlson. See also North American Rim for further discussions of the Kensington Runestone, Sprit Pond stone and Newport Tower.
Marion Dahm - Viking Research & Exploration From Years of 1000 to 1362
American Epigraphics -Norse Runes - discusses findings in Oregon and elsewhere.
Blegen, Theodore C.: Kensington Rune Stone : New Light on an Old Riddle . Minnesota Historical Society, 1960, ISBN=0873510445.
Flom, George Tobias. The Kensington Rune Stone: An Address. Springfield; Phillips Bros., 1910.
Hall, Robert Anderson: The Kensington Rune-Stone: Authentic and Important , A Critical Edition (Edward Sapir Monograph Series in Language, Culture and Cognition, Vol. 19)Jupiter Press, 1995, ISBN=0933104316.
Hall, Robert Anderson: The Kensington Rune-Stone is Genuine , Linguistic, Practical, Methodological Considerations. Hornbeam Press, ISBN=0917496213.
Hanson, Barry: Kensington Runestone--A Defense of Olof Ohman, The Accused Forger. Includes articles written by linguist Richard Nielsen and mineralogy explanations of recent runestone testing.
Holand, Hjalmar: : The Kensington Rune Stone: The Oldest Native Document of American History, Ephriam, WI: Private Printing, 1919.
Holand, Hjalmar R.: The Kensington Stone: A Study in Pre-Columbian American History. , Ephriam, WI: Private Printing, 1932.
Landsverk, Ole Godfred: The Kensington Rune-Stone: A Reappraisal of the Circumstances under which the Stone was Discovered, Glendale: Church Press, 1961.
Nilsestuen, Rolf M.: The Kensington Runestone Vindicated . University Press of America, 1996, ISBN= 0819197491. Nilsestuen is not a scholar, but rather an irascible retiree, who dug into and revealed the scandalous mishandling of many of the prior investigations. He rants, but he makes a strong argument.
Redmond, Jeffery R.: Viking Hoaxes in North America., New York: Carlton Press, 1979. This author asserts that the Kensington Rune Stone was a fraud.
Reiergord, Thomas: The Kensington Rune Stone: Its Place in History. Pogo Pr;, 2001. ISBN=1880654245. The language used on the rune stone is the same as the vernacular on historical legal documents written between 1355 and 1375.
Rogers, Elwin: Labyrinths of Speculation: The Kensington Rune Stone, 1898-1998. E.E. Rogers; ISBN= 1575790963.
Wahlgren, Erik: The Kensington Rune-Stone: A Mystery Solved., Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1958. He believes the runestone is a forgery.
Wahlgren, Erik: "The Runes of Kensington". Studies in Honor of Albert Morey Sturtevant., Westport: Greenwood Press, 1970.