Kensington Runestone
Overview
The Kensington Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke
Greywacke
Greywacke or Graywacke is a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly sorted angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments or lithic fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. It is a texturally immature sedimentary rock generally found...

 covered in runes
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

 on its face and side which, if genuine, would suggest that Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n explorers reached the middle of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 in the 14th century. It was found in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County
Douglas County, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 32,821 people, 13,276 households, and 9,027 families residing in the county. The population density was 52 people per square mile . There were 16,694 housing units at an average density of 26 per square mile...

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, and named after the nearest settlement, Kensington
Kensington, Minnesota
Kensington is a city in Douglas County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 292 at the 2010 census. The city is notable in Minnesota history for being the place where the famous, if questionable, Kensington Runestone was first displayed. The stone tablet may indicate that Scandinavians...

. Almost all Runologists
Runology
Runology is the study of the Runic alphabets, Runic inscriptions and their history. Runology forms a specialized branch of Germanic linguistics.-History:...

 and experts in Scandinavian linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 consider the runestone to be a hoax
Hoax
A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.-Definition:The British...

. The runestone has been analyzed and dismissed repeatedly without local effect.
Encyclopedia
The Kensington Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke
Greywacke
Greywacke or Graywacke is a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly sorted angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments or lithic fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. It is a texturally immature sedimentary rock generally found...

 covered in runes
Runic alphabet
The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter...

 on its face and side which, if genuine, would suggest that Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n explorers reached the middle of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 in the 14th century. It was found in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County
Douglas County, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 32,821 people, 13,276 households, and 9,027 families residing in the county. The population density was 52 people per square mile . There were 16,694 housing units at an average density of 26 per square mile...

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, and named after the nearest settlement, Kensington
Kensington, Minnesota
Kensington is a city in Douglas County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 292 at the 2010 census. The city is notable in Minnesota history for being the place where the famous, if questionable, Kensington Runestone was first displayed. The stone tablet may indicate that Scandinavians...

. Almost all Runologists
Runology
Runology is the study of the Runic alphabets, Runic inscriptions and their history. Runology forms a specialized branch of Germanic linguistics.-History:...

 and experts in Scandinavian linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 consider the runestone to be a hoax
Hoax
A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.-Definition:The British...

. The runestone has been analyzed and dismissed repeatedly without local effect. The community of Kensington is solidly behind the runestone, which has transcended its original cultural purposes and has "taken on a life of its own".

Provenance

Swedish American
Swedish American
Swedish Americans are Americans of Swedish descent, especially the descendants of about 1.2 million immigrants from Sweden during 1885-1915. Most were Lutherans who affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ; some were Methodists...

 farmer Olof Ohman (he appears to have dropped the Swedish spelling Öhman when moving to the US) said he found the stone late in 1898 while clearing his land of trees and stumps before plowing, having recently taken over an 80 acres (323,748.8 m²) parcel that had for years been left unallocated as "Internal Improvement Land". The stone was said to be near the crest of a small knoll rising above the wetlands, lying face down and tangled in the root system of a stunted poplar tree, estimated to be from less than 10 to about 40 years old. The artifact is about 30 x 16 x 6 inches (76 x 41 x 15 cm) in size and weighs about 200 pounds (90 kg). Ohman's ten-year-old son, Edward Ohman, noticed some markings and the farmer later said he thought they had found an "Indian almanac
Almanac
An almanac is an annual publication that includes information such as weather forecasts, farmers' planting dates, and tide tables, containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar etc...

."

Unfortunately for provenance
Provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

 purposes, only family were said to be witnesses to the finding, although people who later saw the cut roots said that some were flattened, consistent with having held a stone. Also, there are many different versions describing when the stone was found (August or November, right after lunch or near the end of work for the evening), who discovered the stone (Olof Ohman and Edward Ohman; Olof Ohman, Edward Ohman and two workmen; Olof Ohman, Edward Ohman, and his neighbor Nils Flaten), when the stone was taken to the nearby town of Kensington, and who made the first transcriptions that were sent to a regional Scandinavian language newspaper. Soon after it was found, the stone was displayed at a local bank. There is no evidence Ohman tried to make money from his find.

When Ohman discovered the stone, the journey of Leif Ericson
Leif Ericson
Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to land in North America , nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus...

 to Vinland
Vinland
Vinland was the name given to an area of North America by the Norsemen, about the year 1000 CE.There is a consensus among scholars that the Vikings reached North America approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus...

 (North America) was being widely discussed and there was renewed interest in the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s throughout Scandinavia, stirred by the National Romanticism
Romantic nationalism
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs...

 movement. Five years earlier Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 had participated in the World's Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

 by sending the Viking
Viking (ship)
‎The Viking is an exact replica of the Gokstad ship, a Viking ship found in a burial mound near Sandefjord, Norway in 1880. The Viking was featured at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893....

, a replica of the Gokstad ship
Gokstad ship
The Gokstad ship is a Viking ship found in a burial mound at Gokstad farm in Sandar, Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway.-Discovery:The place where the boat was found, situated on arable land, had long been named Gokstadhaugen or Kongshaugen , although the relevance of its name had been discounted as...

to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. There was also friction between Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 (which ultimately led to Norway's independence from Sweden in 1905). Some Norwegians claimed the stone was a Swedish hoax and there were similar Swedish accusations because the stone references a joint expedition of Norwegians and Swedes at a time when they were both ruled by the same king. In Minnesota, Scandinavians were newcomers, still struggling for acceptance; the runestone took root in a community that was proud of its Scandinavian heritage.

An error-ridden copy of the inscription made its way to the University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...

. Olaus J. Breda (1853–1916), Professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature in the Scandinavian Department made a translation, declared the stone to be a forgery and published a discrediting article which appeared in Symra
Symra
Symra was a Norwegian language periodical published between in 1905 and 1914.Symra; En Aarbog for Norske Paa Begge Sider Af Havet was established to publish the literary works of Norwegian American authors, writers and poets. Johannes B...

during 1910. Breda also forwarded copies of his translation to fellow linguists in Scandinavia. Norway's leading archeologist Oluf Rygh
Oluf Rygh
Oluf Rygh was a noted Norwegian archeologist, philologist and historian. Oluf Rygh is recognized as one of the founders of professional archeology in Norway.-Background:...

 also concluded the stone was a fraud, as did several other noted linguists.

The stone was then sent to Northwestern University
Northwestern University
Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, USA. Northwestern has eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools offering 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees....

 in Evanston, Illinois
Evanston, Illinois
Evanston is a suburban municipality in Cook County, Illinois 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, bordering Chicago to the south, Skokie to the west, and Wilmette to the north, with an estimated population of 74,360 as of 2003. It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michigan...

. With scholars either dismissing it as a prank or unable to identify a sustainable historical context, it was returned to Ohman, who is said to have placed it face down near the door of his granary as a "stepping stone" which he also used for straightening out nails. Years later, his son said this was an "untruth" and that they had it set up in an adjacent shed, but he appears to have been referring only to the way the stone was treated before it started to attract interest at the end of 1898.

In 1907 the stone was purchased, reportedly for ten dollars, by Hjalmar Holand
Hjalmar Holand
Hjalmar Rued Holand was an American historian and author. He was the author of a number of books and numerous articles principally dealing with the history of the Upper Midwest and with Norwegian-American immigration....

, a former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

. Holand renewed public interest with an article enthusiastically summarizing studies that were made by geologist Newton Horace Winchell
Newton Horace Winchell
Newton Horace Winchell was the extremely prolific Minnesota geologist responsible for the six-volume The Geology of Minnesota: Final Report of the Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota, which is the work of Winchell and his assistants...

 (Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a private, non-profit educational and cultural institution dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. state of Minnesota. It was founded by the territorial legislature in 1849, almost a decade before statehood. The Society is named in the Minnesota...

) and linguist George T. Flom
George T. Flom
George T. Flom was an American professor of linguistics and author of numerous reference books.-Background:...

 (Philological Society
Philological Society
The Philological Society, or London Philological Society, is the oldest learned society in Great Britain dedicated to the study of language. The society was established in 1842 to "investigate and promote the study and knowledge of the structure, the affinities, and the history of languages"...

 of the University of Illinois
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

), who both published opinions in 1910.

According to Winchell, the tree under which the stone was allegedly found had been destroyed before 1910, but several nearby poplars that witnesses estimated as being about the same size were cut down, and by counting their rings it was determined they were indeed around 30–40 years old (NB: letters were written to members of a team which had excavated at the find site in 1899, and their estimates from memory, without any reference to tree rings, ranged as low as 10–12 years in the case of county schools superintendent Cleve Van Dyke). The surrounding county had not been settled until 1858, and settlement was severely restricted for a time by the Dakota War of 1862
Dakota War of 1862
The Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising, was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of the eastern Sioux. It began on August 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota...

 (although it was reported that the best land in the township adjacent to Solem, Holmes City, was already taken by 1867, by a mixture of Swedish, Norwegian and "Yankee" settlers).

Winchell also concluded that the weathering of the stone indicated the inscription was roughly 500 years old. Meanwhile, Flom found a strong apparent divergence between the runes used in the Kensington inscription and those in use during the 14th century. Similarly, the language of the inscription was modern compared to the Nordic languages of the 14th century.
The Kensington Runestone is currently on display at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Possible historical background

In 1577, cartographer Gerardus Mercator
Gerardus Mercator
thumb|right|200px|Gerardus MercatorGerardus Mercator was a cartographer, born in Rupelmonde in the Hapsburg County of Flanders, part of the Holy Roman Empire. He is remembered for the Mercator projection world map, which is named after him...

 wrote a letter containing the only detailed description of the contents of a geographical text about the Arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

 region of the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, possibly written over two centuries earlier by one Jacob Cnoyen. Cnoyen had learned that in 1364, eight men had returned to Norway from the Arctic islands, one of whom, a priest, provided the King of Norway with a great deal of geographical information. Books by scholars such as Carl Christian Rafn
Carl Christian Rafn
Carl Christian Rafn was a Danish historian, translator and antiquarian. His scholarship to a large extent focused on translation of Old Norse literature and related Northern European ancient history...

 early in the 19th century revealed hints of reality behind this tale. A priest named Ivar Bardarsson, who had previously been based in Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, did turn up in Norwegian records from 1364 onward and copies of his geographical description of Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 still survive. Furthermore, in 1354, King Magnus Eriksson
Magnus IV of Sweden
Magnus Eriksson as Magnus IV was king of Sweden , including Finland, as Magnus VII King of Norway , including Iceland and Greenland, and also ruled Scania . He has also vindictively been called Magnus Smek...

 of Sweden and Norway had issued a letter appointing a law officer named Paul Knutsson
Paul Knutson
-Biography:In the 1340s Pål Knutsson was an ombudsman who owned much of the Tveit farm at Tysnes in Hordaland. By 1348 he had been promoted to judge of the Gulathing within the district of Gulen...

 as leader of an expedition to the colony of Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, to investigate reports that the population was turning away from Christian culture. Another of the documents reprinted by the 19th century scholars was a scholarly attempt by Icelandic Bishop Gisli Oddsson, in 1637, to compile a history of the Arctic colonies. He dated the Greenlanders' fall away from Christianity to 1342, and claimed that they had turned instead to America. Supporters of a 14th century origin for the Kensington runestone argue that Knutson may therefore have travelled beyond Greenland to North America, in search of renegade Greenlanders, most of his expedition being killed in Minnesota and leaving just the eight voyagers to return to Norway.

However, there is no evidence that the Knutson expedition ever set sail (the government of Norway went through considerable turmoil in 1355) and the information from Cnoyen as relayed by Mercator states specifically that the eight men who came to Norway in 1364 were not survivors of a recent expedition, but descended from the colonists who had settled the distant lands, generations earlier. Also, those early 19th century books, which aroused a great deal of interest among Scandinavian Americans
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 would have been available to a late 19th century hoaxer.

Hjalmar Holand had proposed that interbreeding with Norse survivors might explain the "blond" Indians among the Mandan on the Upper Missouri River, but in a multidisciplinary study of the stone, anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe dismissed, as "tangential" to the Runestone issue, this and other historical references suggesting pre-Columbian contacts with 'outsiders', such as the Hochunk (Winnebago) story about an ancestral hero "Red Horn
Red Horn (Siouan deity)
Red Horn is a culture hero in Siouan oral traditions, specifically of the Ioway and Hocąk nations. Only in Hocąk literature is he known as "Red Horn" , but among the Ioway and Hocągara both, he is known by one of his variant names, "He Who Wears Faces on His Ears"...

" and his encounter with "red-haired giants".

Geography

A natural north-south navigation route—admittedly with a number of portage
Portage
Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying watercraft or cargo over land to avoid river obstacles, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage; a person doing the carrying is called a porter.The English word portage is derived from the...

s round dangerous rapids—extends from Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

 up Nelson River
Nelson River
The Nelson River is a river of north-central North America, in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Its full length is , it has mean discharge of , and has a drainage basin of , of which is in the United States...

 (or the Hayes River
Hayes River
The Hayes River is a river in Northern Region, Manitoba, Canada that flows from Molson Lake to Hudson Bay at York Factory. It was an historically important river in the development of Canada, and is today a Canadian Heritage River and the longest naturally flowing river in Manitoba.-Course:The...

, as preferred by early modern traders from York Factory) through Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg is a large, lake in central North America, in the province of Manitoba, Canada, with its southern tip about north of the city of Winnipeg...

, then up the Red River of the North
Red River of the North
The Red River is a North American river. Originating at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers in the United States, it flows northward through the Red River Valley and forms the border between the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota before continuing into Manitoba, Canada...

. The northern waterway begins at Traverse Gap
Traverse Gap
The Traverse Gap is an ancient river channel occupied by Lake Traverse and Big Stone Lake and the valley connecting them at Browns Valley, Minnesota. It is located on the border of the U.S. states of Minnesota and South Dakota...

, on the other side of which is the source of the Minnesota River
Minnesota River
The Minnesota River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 332 miles long, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It drains a watershed of nearly , in Minnesota and about in South Dakota and Iowa....

, flowing to join the great Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 at Minneapolis. One of the early Runestone debunkers, George Flom, found that explorers and traders had come from Hudson Bay to Minnesota by this route decades before the area was officially settled. Supporters of the stone's authenticity argued that the 1362 party could have used the same waterway. This idea is based on Scandinavian voyagers sailing the rivers from the Baltic sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 down to Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 during the Viking age, but this ignores that different ship types were used to cross oceans and to sail on rivers. The boats that are small enough for portage
Portage
Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying watercraft or cargo over land to avoid river obstacles, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage; a person doing the carrying is called a porter.The English word portage is derived from the...

 are not suitable for open sea voyages.

Other artifacts?

This waterway also contains alleged signs of Viking presence. At Cormorant Lake in Becker County, Minnesota
Becker County, Minnesota
Becker County is a county located in the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of 2010, the population was 32,504. Its county seat is Detroit Lakes. A portion of the White Earth Indian Reservation extends into the county.-History:...

, there are three boulders with triangular holes which are claimed to be similar to those used for mooring boats along the coast of Norway during the 14th century. Holand found other triangular holes in rocks near where the stone was found; however, experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology employs a number of different methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches in order to generate and test hypotheses, based upon archaeological source material, like ancient structures or artifacts. It should not be confused with primitive technology which is not concerned...

 later suggested that holes dug in stone with chisels rather than drills tend to have a triangular cross-section, whatever their purpose. A little further north, by the Red River itself, at Climax, Minnesota, a firesteel
Firesteel
A Fire striker is a piece of high-carbon steel used for striking a spark, usually kept in a tinderbox together with flint and tinder.-Usage:...

 found in 1871, buried quite deep in soft ground, matched specimens of medieval Norse firesteels at the Oslo University museum in Norway.

There has also been considerable discussion of what has recently been named the Vérendrye Runestone
Vérendrye Runestone
The Vérendrye Runestone was allegedly found on an early expedition into the territory west of the Great Lakes by the French Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye, in the 1730s...

, a small plaque allegedly found by one of the earliest expeditions along what later became the U.S./Canada border, in the 1730s. "Allegedly", because it is not referred to in the journal of the expedition, or indeed any first-hand source; only in a summary of a conversation about the expedition a decade after it took place.

No non-Native American artifacts dating from before 1492 have been recovered under controlled, professionally conducted archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 investigations at any great distance from the east coast of the continent; and with current techniques, the dating of any holes cut into rocks in the region is as uncertain as the dating of the Kensington stone itself.

Text

This is a transliteration of the stone:
The lateral (or side) text reads:
Translation:

Eight Götalanders and 22 Northmen on (this?) acquisition journey from Vinland far to the west. We had a camp by two (shelters?) one day's journey north from this stone. We were fishing one day. After we came home, found 10 men red from blood and dead. Ave Maria
Hail Mary
The Angelic Salutation, Hail Mary, or Ave Maria is a traditional biblical Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Hail Mary is used within the Catholic Church, and it forms the basis of the Rosary...

 save from evil.
There are 10 men by the inland sea to look after our ships fourteen days journey from this peninsula (or island). Year 1362


When the original text is transcribed to the Latin script, the message becomes quite easy to read for any modern Scandinavian. This fact is one of the main arguments against the authenticity of the stone. The language of the inscription bears much closer resemblance to 19th century than 14th century Swedish.

The AVM is historically consistent since any Scandinavian explorers would have been Catholic at that time.

Debate

Holand took the stone to Europe and, while newspapers in Minnesota carried articles hotly debating its authenticity, the stone was quickly dismissed by Swedish linguists.

For the next 40 years, Holand struggled to sway public and scholarly opinion about the Runestone, writing articles and several books. He achieved brief success in 1949, when the stone was put on display at the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

, and scholars such as William Thalbitzer
William Thalbitzer
William C. Thalbitzer was a Danish philologist and professor of eskimo studies at the University of Copenhagen. He studied Danish, English and Latin at the university, but after graduating in 1899 he decided to focus on "exotic" languages. In 1900 he spent a year in Ilulissat in western Greenland...

 and S. N. Hagen published papers supporting its authenticity. However, at nearly the same time, Scandinavian linguists Sven Jansson, Erik Moltke
Erik Moltke
Erik Moltke was a runologist, writer, editor. Through his leadership the Runologist Section of the National Museum of Denmark became a world centre for the scientific study of runology c.1942 CE....

, Harry Anderson and K. M. Nielsen, along with a popular book by Erik Wahlgren again questioned the Runestone's authenticity.

Along with Wahlgren, historian Theodore C. Blegen
Theodore C. Blegen
Theodore Christian Blegen was an American historian and author. Theodore Blegen was the author of numerous historic reference books, papers and articles written over a five decade period...

 flatly asserted Ohman had carved the artifact as a prank, possibly with help from others in the Kensington area. Further resolution seemed to come with the 1976 published transcript of an interview of Frank Walter Gran conducted by Dr. Paul Carson, Jr. on August 13, 1967 that had been recorded to audio tape. In it, Gran said his father John confessed in 1927 that Ohman made the inscription. John Gran's story however was based on second-hand anecdotes he had heard about Ohman, and although it was presented as a dying declaration
Dying declaration
In the law of evidence, the dying declaration is testimony that would normally barred as hearsay but may nonetheless be admitted as evidence in certain kinds of cases because it constituted the last words of a dying person.-History:...

, Gran lived for several years afterwards saying nothing more about the stone. In 2005 supporters of the runestone's authenticity attempted to explain this with claims that Gran was motivated by jealousy over the attention Ohman had received.

The possibility of a Scandinavian provenance
Provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

 for the Runestone was renewed in 1982 when Robert Hall
Robert A. Hall, Jr.
Robert Anderson Hall, Jr. was an American linguist and specialist in the Romance languages. He was a professor of Linguistics at Cornell University....

, an emeritus Professor of Italian Language and Literature at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

  published a book (and a follow up in 1994) questioning the methodology
Methodology
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

 of its critics. He asserted that the odd philological problems in the Runestone could be the result of normal dialectal variances in Old Swedish during the purported carving of the Runestone. Further, he contended that critics had failed to consider the physical evidence, which he found leaning heavily in favour of authenticity. Meanwhile in The Vikings and America (1986) former UCLA professor Erik Wahlgren wrote that the text bore linguistic abnormalities and spellings that he thought suggested the Runestone was a forgery.

Richard Nielsen

In 1983, inspired by Hall, Richard Nielsen
Richard Nielsen
Richard Nielsen of Houston, Texas, an amateur researcher on the linguistics and runology of the Kensington Runestone, grew up in a Danish-speaking home in California, earned a doctorate in materials science from the Technical University of Denmark, and developed an intense interest in the...

, a trained engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

 and amateur language researcher from Houston, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, studied the Kensington Runestone's runology and linguistics, disputing several earlier claims of forgery
Forgery
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

. For example, the rune which had been interpreted as standing for the letter J (and according to critics, invented by the forger) could be interpreted as a rare form of the L rune found only in a few 14th century manuscripts.

In 2001, Nielsen published an article on the Scandinavian Studies website refuting claims the runes were Dalecarlian (a more modern form). He asserted that while some runes on the Kensington Runestone are similar to Dalecarlian runes, over half have no such connection, and are best explained by 14th-century usage.

Opthagelsefarth: Nielsen and others

As an example of how linguistic research affects the discussion of this text, no evidence has been found of the Swedish term opthagelse farth (journey of discovery), or updagelsefard as it often appears, in Old Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, nor in Middle Dutch or Middle Low German during the 14th or 15th centuries.

In the contemporary and modern Scandinavian languages the term is called opdagelsesrejse in Danish, oppdagingsferd or oppdagelsesferd in Norwegian and upptäcktsfärd in Swedish. It is considered a fact that the modern word is a loan-translation
Calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

 from Low German *updagen, Dutch opdagen and German aufdecken, which are in turn loan-translations of French découvrir.

In a conversation with Holand in 1911, the lexicographer of the Old Swedish Dictionary (Soderwall) noted that his work was limited mostly to surviving legal documents written in formal and stilted language and that the root word opdage must have been a borrowed Germanic term (i.e. from Low German, Dutch or High German). Also, the -else ending characterizes a class of words that the Scandinavians borrowed from their southern neighbors.

However, before the Scandinavians could have borrowed the term from the Germanic languages, the Germanic peoples had to have first borrowed it from the French language, which did not happen before the 16th century. Linguists who, due to this and similar facts, reject the Medieval origin of the Kensington inscription, consider this word to be a neologism and have noted that, in a Norwegian newspaper circulated in Minnesota, the late 19th century Norwegian historian Gustav Storm often used this term in articles on Viking exploration.

Nielsen suggests that the Þ (transliterated above as th or d) could also be a t sound, which would mean the word could be the 14th century expression uptagelsefart (acquisition expedition). However, in the rest of the text, the Thorn rune regularly corresponds to modern Scandinavian d-sounds and only occasionally to historical th-sounds, while the T-rune is used for all other t-sounds.

More linguistic problems

Another characteristic pointed out by skeptics is the text's lack of cases
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

. Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 had the four cases of modern German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. They had disappeared from common speech by the 16th century but were still predominant in the 14th century (see Swedish language
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

). Also, the text does not use the plural verb forms that were common in the 14th century and have only recently disappeared: for example, (plural forms in parenthesis) "wi war" (wörum), "hathe" (höfuðum), "[wi] fiske" (fiskaðum), "kom" (komum), "fann" (funnum) and "wi hathe" (hafdum). Proponents of the stone's authenticity point to sporadic examples of these simpler forms in some 14th century texts and to the great changes of the morphological system of the Scandinavian languages that began during the latter part of that century.

The inscription also contains "pentadic
Pentimal system
The pentimal system is a notation for presenting numbers, usually by inscribing in wood or stone. The notation has been used in Scandinavia, usually in conjunction to runes....

" numerals. Such numerals are known in Scandinavia, but nearly always from relatively recent times, not from verified medieval runic monuments, on which numbers were usually spelled out as words. For example, to write EINN (one) the runes E-I-N were used (writing customs avoided having the same rune twice in a row for identical sounds) and indeed the word EN (one) is in the Kensington inscription. Writing all the numbers out (such as thirteen hundred and sixty-two) would not have easily fit the surface space, so the stone's author (whether a forger or 14th-century explorer) simplified things by using pentadic runes as numerals in the Indo-Arabic positional
Positional notation
Positional notation or place-value notation is a method of representing or encoding numbers. Positional notation is distinguished from other notations for its use of the same symbol for the different orders of magnitude...

 numbering system. This system had been described in an early 14th century Icelandic book called Hauksbók
Hauksbók
The Hauksbók is one of the few medieval Norse manuscripts of which the author is known. His name was Haukr Erlendsson , and as long back as it is possible to trace the manuscript it has been called the Hauksbók after its author. It was partly written by Haukr himself, partly by assistants...

, known to have been taken to Norway by its compiler Haukr Erlendsson
Haukr Erlendsson
Haukr Erlendsson was the writer of the Hauksbók.In 1294, he became the lawspeaker of Iceland and in 1301 he arrived in Norway, where, according to a letter from 1311, he is called the lawspeaker and knight of the Gula Thing. He appears to have held this position until 1322....

. However, the few pages of Hauksbók
Hauksbók
The Hauksbók is one of the few medieval Norse manuscripts of which the author is known. His name was Haukr Erlendsson , and as long back as it is possible to trace the manuscript it has been called the Hauksbók after its author. It was partly written by Haukr himself, partly by assistants...

, called Algorismus, that describe the Indo-Arabic numerals and how to use them in calculations, were not widely known at the time, and the Indo-Arabic number system did not become widespread in Scandinavia until centuries later.

AVM: A Medieval Abbreviation?

In 2004, Keith Massey and Kevin Massey published their theory that the Latin letters on the Kensington Stone, AVM, contain evidence authenticating a medieval date for the artifact. The Kensington Stone critic Erik Wahlgren had noticed that the carver had incised a notch on the upper right hand corner of the letter V. The Massey Twins note that a mark in that position is consistent with an abbreviation technique used in the 14th century. To render the word "Ave" in that period, the final vowel would have been written as a superscript. Eventually, the superscript vowel was replaced by a mere superscript dot. The existence of a notch where Wahlgren notes, then, shows that the carver was familiar with 14th century abbreviation techniques. The Massey Twins, however, point out that knowledge of these conventions was not available to the purported forger in late 19th century Minnesota, as books documenting these techniques were being printed in Italian academic circles only a few years after Ohman discovered the stone.

Rune statistics

The Kensington inscription consists of 29 different runic characters. Of these, 18 belong to the normal futhark series, q.e. a, b, d(/th), e, f, g, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, and v. Then there are three special umlauted runes, that are marked by two dots above them. These represent the letters ü, ä and ö. There is also one appearance of the Arlaug rune which usually represents the number 17. This does not work on the Kensington Stone, so therefore it's sometimes interpreted as a bind rune
Bind rune
A bind rune is a ligature of two or more runes. They are extremely rare in Viking Age inscriptions, but are common in pre-Viking Age and in post-Viking Age inscriptions....

 of e and l. Finally, there are seven others that represent the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 10. These results are obtained by counting how many times each rune recurs on the stone. Since the included photographs of the stone are quite sharp, the reader can easily verify this. Furthermore, it is also quite easy to see what Latin letter each rune represents, since most of the words are readily recognized as modern Swedish words. The result of such analysis also agrees nicely with the runic alphabets recorded by Edward Larsson in 1885.

Edward Larsson's notes

Many runes in the inscription deviate from known medieval runes
Medieval runes
The medieval runes, or the futhork, was a Scandinavian 27 letter runic alphabet that evolved from the Younger Futhark after the introduction of dotted runes at the end of the Viking Age and it was fully formed in the early 13th century...

, but in 2004 it was discovered that these appear along with pentadic runes in the 1883 notes of a 16-year-old journeyman tailor with an interest in folk music, Edward Larsson. A copy was published by the Institute for Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research
Institute for Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research in Umeå
DAUM, the Institute for Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research in Umeå, is a Swedish governmental archive bureau which collects, preserves, works up and provides information about dialects, place names, folklore culture and local history. DAUM is part of the Swedish Institute for Language...

 in Umeå
Umeå
- Transport :The road infrastructure in Umeå is well-developed, with two European highways passing through the city. About 4 km from the city centre is the Umeå City Airport...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and while an accompanying article suggested the runes were a secret cipher used by the tailors guild, no usage of futharks by any 19th-century guild has been documented. However, given that the Larsson notes are the only firm evidence for 19th century knowledge of these futharks, it does appear that a secret has been kept with considerable success. The notes also include the Pigpen cipher
Pigpen cipher
The pigpen cipher is a geometric simple substitution cipher which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid...

, devised by the Freemasons, and it may not be coincidental that the abbreviation AVM seen in Latin letters on the Kensington stone also appears (for AUM) on many Masonic gravestones; Wolter and Nielsen in their 2005 book even suggested a connection with the Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

.

Larsson's notes disprove the early theory that the unusual runes on the Kensington Runestone were invented on the spot by the supposed 1890s hoaxer; but without a source for Larsson's rune rows (for example an ancient book, or records from the hypothetical Masonic-type organisation), it is not possible to give their origin any particular date range closer than "before 1883." However, his second rune row includes runes for the letters Å, Ä and Ö, which were introduced into the Swedish version of the Latin alphabet in the 16th century. Although Nielsen has demonstrated that double-dotted runes were used in medieval inscriptions to indicate lengthened vowels, the presence of other letters from the second Larsson rune row on the Kensington stone suggests that the post-16th century versions were intended in this case.

The stone and the Larsson runes

Before Edward Larsson's sheet of runic alphabets surfaced in Sweden in 2004, when the stone was exhibited there, it seemed as if the Kensington runes were gathered from many different futharks, or in a few cases invented by the carver. Larsson's sheet lists two different Futharks. The first Futhark consists of 22 runes, the last two of which are bind-runes, representing the letter-combinations EL and MW. His second Futhark consists of 27 runes, where the last 3 are specially adapted to represent the letters å, ä, and ö of the modern Swedish alphabet.

Comparing the Kensington Futhark with Larsson's two it becomes clear that the Kensington runes are a selective combination of Larsson's two Futharks, with some very minor variations such as mirror-imaging. On the stone the runes representing e, g, n, and i have been taken from Larsson's first Futhark, and the runes representing the letters a, b, k, u, v, ä, and ö have been taken from Larsson's second Futhark.

See also

  • AVM Runestone
    AVM Runestone
    The AVM Runestone was discovered on May 13, 2001, near Kensington, Minnesota, not far from the site where the famous Kensington Runestone was found in 1898.-Discovery and investigation:...

    , a hoax planted near the site of the Kensington runestone
  • Beardmore Relics
    Beardmore Relics
    The Beardmore Relics are a cache of Viking Age artifacts, said to have been unearthed near Beardmore, Ontario, Canada, in the 1930s. The cache consists of a Viking Age sword, an axe head, and a bar of undetermined use . It has been claimed by some that the relics are proof of the early Norse...

    , Viking Age relics, supposedly found in Canada, associated with the Kensington runestone
  • Elbow Lake Runestone, a hoax planted in Minnesota
  • Heavener Runestone
    Heavener Runestone
    The Heavener Runestone is an inscribed stone located in Heavener, Oklahoma. The land on which it sits is now a state park on Poteau Mountain, just outside the town limits. The origin of the stone's runic carvings is disputed.-News:...

    , a runestone found in Oklahoma

External links

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