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The Kensington forgery

The infamous Kensington Runestone is kept in a museum just a few miles up the road from me. It’s a carved rock that was dug up on a farm in the 19th century by a Swedish farmer, and purports to tell the tale in runes of a doomed Viking expedition that had come down from Hudson’s Bay to meet a tragic end at the hands of the Minnesota natives. More likely, it’s a cunning artifact produced by the farmer, Olof Öhman. It’s an unlikely bit of pseudo-history, and I’d love to see an unassailable disproof of its source.

Martin Rundkvist is reporting that Öhman’s signature has been found on the stone. Unfortunately, I find the evidence for that even more weirdly unlikely than that Vikings carved it. There are various numbers scattered around in the account written on the stone — the number of Vikings, the days spent traveling, that sort of thing — and the guy who claims to have detected the signature uses these numbers in a bizarrely oblique way.

The inscription has twelve lines. Larsson counts the words from the left on odd-numbered lines and from the right on even-numbered lines…

Uh, why? What if you counted from the left on even lines and from the right on odd lines? What if you counted characters up from the bottom, or whatever other random number-juggling you could do. This reeks of post-hoc fitting of an interpretation to the data set, and I don’t believe a word of it.

Rats. We’re going to have to keep on rolling our eyes at the silliness in that little museum to the north, I guess.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. says

    Hard to say, really. Obviously there was some fitting done, but that’s how codes are often broken. Strange first sentence, though, “the Ohmans found.” Or would that sound better to, say, a Scandinavian?

    It’s not real, in all probability, so a message could be in it. Having seen some of those idiotic anti-Stratfordian “findings,” though, I can’t fail some skepticism as well.

    We just don’t know the probabilities, or at least I don’t. He’ll need some corroboration from competent sources to say that this wasn’t just jiggling the code until he got something that worked somewhat–what a dull message, if it really was encoded.

    Glen Davidson

  2. says

    Sounds crackpottish, but it’s the unexplained numerology that catches my attention, not the directionality. I’d like to hear more about how these numbers are handled; I’m sure that’s as weird as Kabbalah, and just as well-founded.

    But the left/right/left reading frame is not that unusual. “Boustrophedonic” writing – writing one direction and then the other on alternating lines, like an ox plowing a field back and forth (thus the etymology of the term) – was known in ancient times. Famously, Leonardo also used it, either to save time in his writing by not moving his hand back across the blank page for each line, or as a form of code. The idea that it may be necessary to read the Kensington code in that way is not implausible on its face (though of course it would need to be demonstrated that it was true).

  3. coralline says

    Damn it! Kevin T. Keith beat me to it, and much more educationally. I was just going to write “uopǝɥdoɹʇsnoq”.

  4. DLC says

    Add the Kensington forgery to the fake viking fort in Maine, and you get… two northern states with bored bullshit artists ?

  5. brendanweiss says

    I remember seeing the Kensington Stone at the Minnesota pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Apparently they were a little embarrassed about it even then, since it wasn’t exactly the main attraction of the pavilion. I had to ask several people where it was, until they turned it up in a display case in the back!

  6. Medievalist says

    Admittedly, medieval Scandinavia and Runology are not my areas of expertise, but I do know that most reputable runologists (such as Klaus Düwel) consider it very likely that the Kensington stone is a forgery. Their arguments (mainly linguistic evidence that the language of the inscription is suspiciously modern for a 14th-century-text, the use of atypical runes etc.) seem more convincing than the doubtful “deciphering” or a supposed encrypted message.

    Apart from that, the content of the text seems highly atypical to me, very convenient for those who want to “prove” the presence of Vikings in the area, but unlike the content of any runic inscription I am familiar with. For one thing, we are not given any names (neither that of the runemaster who cut the runes, nor those of the people in this supposed expedition or at least its leaders).

    But names would have been important for their “memoria”, both on a secular level (for being remembered as these daring men who traveled to parts unknown) and from the standpoint of medieval Christians (who are presented as praying an “Ave Maria” in the inscription, after all), who would have been likely to want to be remembered in prayer.

    A second atypical circumstance is the placement of the stone, apparently somewhere far from where Vikings usually roamed. The vast majority of rune stones, even those mentioning voyages to faraway places, were either placed near viking settlements (often in their home countries) or near established trade routes (roads, shipping routes etc.), i.e., in places where people were actually likely to read the inscription.

    So, to consider the Kensington Runestone real, we would have to work with the following hypothesis: A group of medieval explorers behave in a highly unmedieval fashion. Not only do they take the time to carve a long runic inscription in a situation that sounds very dire, they also place it in the middle of an area whose inhabitants are most probably unable to read these runes and which is not frequently visited by people who could read them. But even more than that: Instead of jotting down names that might serve an identifying and memorial purpose in the unlikely case that other rune-readers did come upon the stone at some point, our intrepid explorers conveniently provide all the information that a 19th-century-historian might dream of (right down to the number of men left behind to guard the ships!), but not all that much information that might have been more relevant to them and their contemporaries.

    Therefore, I call forgery (of course, if a scientist can provethat the inscription must be around 700 years old indeed because of, say, the corrosion of the stone, if an archaeologist unearthes irrefutable proof of the presence of 14th-century Scandinavians in the area, or if new, very convincing linguistic and historical arguments turn up, I will be glad to stand corrected and will be very impressed with those surprisingly modern norsemen who knew so well what sources to provide historians with).

  7. Lars Karlsson says

    Having studied runes at university for a short course, I’d like to ad that it’s not uncommon for runes to be encoded (very simple codes though).

  8. Nele says

    We historians tend to cringe when confronted with convoluted numerological discoveries. Real historical analysis tends to be a very much down-to-earth, common-sense issue.

  9. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    That doesn’t sound very different from the way in which Edgar Allen Poe would encode the name of a patroness into a poem. He used letters within the words, not numbers, but my point is, using a bit of cryptography to add a hidden message to a public message is not unlikely; it’s a puzzle game the writer plays with either the readership or a few with inside knowledge. Anyone geeky enough to forge a stone carving in Nordic runes is probably geeky enough to know a few codes systems.

  10. says

    These sorts of crazies are fun as long as you look on them as jokes.
    I’ve got an old edition of Alfred Dodd’s Shake-Speares [sic] Sonnets The Personal Poems of Francis Bacon that ‘proves’ that Bacon was:
    a) the writer of Shakespeare
    b) the illegitimate son of Lizzie I
    c) the most wonderfullest genius the world has ever known
    d) the writer of Marlowe
    e) the writer of Bacon (duh!)
    f) delicious when well cooked with fried eggs for breakfast (drool!)
    Well maybe not the last one.
    And all on the basis of some of the letters in the first edition (1609) being in slightly bolder type. If you have ever looked closely at early 17C typography you’ll know what a load of bollocks* that is.
     
     
    ________________
    * bollocks + bullocks = bull

  11. 21stCenturyBird says

    This particular kind of pareidolia – seeing hidden signatures in random noise – puzzles me deeply, especially as it shows up all the time – in numerology, in conspiracy theories, it’s everywhere. Whether it’s the Illuminati being obsessed with the number 23 or forgers hiding their signature with a bizarre scheme, for some reason, there seems to be an assumption that people operate like the Riddler. I wonder why that is.

  12. Cannabinaceae says

    Larry Millett has written several Sherlock Holmes pastiches set in Minnesota, one of which is Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery.

    They’re pretty good, if you like that sort of thing (which I do, but I believe The Sailor does not).

    I’d like to see a rune inscription along the lines of “this is the ossuary of James the brother of Jesus”. Somehow, this would prove that Jesus was Odin, or something, which only makes sense, him being some kind of universal god or something.

  13. says

    The Kensington Stone was used in a YA novel titled Door to the North (by Elizabeth Coatsworth), which I found in the Bookmobile during one of its visits to my elementary school in the sixties (if I remember correctly). It was a page-turner that stuck in my head. Later I was disappointed to learn that the Stone was probably just as fictional as the novel, but for a while I thought the proper word for American Indians should be “skraelings,” well before “Native American” came to my attention.

  14. crissakentavr says

    I think the unique character O which matches the farm is more likely than the numerology thing.

  15. King of New Hampshire says

    Add the Kensington forgery to the fake viking fort in Maine, and you get… two northern states with bored bullshit artists ?

    Hey! Don’t forget the American Stonehenge in New Hampshire.

  16. ChasCPeterson says

    crissakentavr: is that supposed to make sense? Nobody here has any idea what you’re talking about (for the curious, it’s in PZ’s link to the OP).

    PZ’s presentation here is (as is often the case, imo) misleading. The supposed coded message is not something ambiguous like initials or just a signature, it’s a brief retelling of the guy’s original story of finding the stone while collecting firewood.

    As to why odd/left and even/right? Because that’s the only thing he tried–using the numbers in the runic message itself–that actually yielded a meaningful result.

    Assuming that all the claims and translations are accurate, I’d find it a lot more surprising that such a relevant message could be found accidentally than the idea that the forger was clever and playful enough to code the message in.

  17. says

    I love this post. It highlights the difference between science and pseudo-science. You state right up front that you would love to see this stone fully debunked, but reject this alleged evidence because it doesn’t do the job.

  18. Jim says

    Actually, runestones generally are known for having a lot of information cleverly embedded in them. It was the mark of a true master of this artform.

    As to the Kensington Stone itself, I find it a bit telling that, generally, Scandinavian scholars find it utterly fake, and non-Scandinavian scholars tend to give it a bit more leeway.

  19. Anders says

    The sentence arrived at doesnt make any sense in swedish either:

    “Öh mans fan vi ved hade ved sten”

    The grammar and order of the sentence is completely wrong, it reads somethin like

    “Ohman found we wood had at stone”

    And yes, that sounds just as wierd in swedish.

  20. Paschal Wagner says

    Not only is it weird Swedish syntax-wise, you have to accept some pretty wild misspellings, even for 19th century Swedish.

    “Öh mans fan vi ved hade ved sten” literally: “Uh man’s damnit we wood had wood stone”

    /Off to play some heavy metal backwards

  21. ChasCPeterson says

    According to the OP, the accused (and, if the coded message is true, admitted) Swedish forger was pretty crappy at Swedish grammar and spelling; apparently there are letters he wrote with ‘similar’ mistakes.
    What is the probability of arriving at even a crappy version of a situation-relevant Swedish* sentence by chance, using only the numbers provided in the inscription?

    Nobody who disbelieves the coded message is there is arguing that it’s not a forgery, right?
    So whay isn’t intentionality the most parsimonious explanation for the purported code?

    *not Hungarian, not Tagalog

  22. hockeybob says

    We’ve been staying at a resort near Alexandria for 18 years now, and had made several weekend trips there with my parents when I was a teen, and I’ve quickly discovered that the quickest way to ostracize yourself while there is to express any skepticism of the authenticity of the Kensington Runestone. The locals do *not* take kindly to anyone debunking the one thing that they cling to as a sort of tourist attraction… which is utterly ridiculous, as the area has some of the greatest lakes and golf courses in central Minnesota, as well as numerous other interesting things to see and do.

    The Runestone Museum is still a neat place to go, if you’re into museums like I am. Just take the runestone history portion of the tour with a 100 lb. bag of salt.

    (Note to PZ – if you ever find yourself in the area, you should try the Corral Supper Club in Nelson – great food, and their hash browns are deserving of their own celebratory runestone.)

  23. peterh says

    This seems reminiscent of the lately-popular “bible code” where if one has a sufficiently clever algorithm, one can find the most abstruse “messages” in the unlikeliest of contexts. The more abstruse & unlikely the better, all the more to peddle one’s woo.

  24. dorcheat says

    As a born and raised Minnesotan from Detroit Lakes (north of Morris), I consider the Kensington Runestone one of the first attempts at generating a tourist attraction in Minnesota. Indeed, the stone has been ironically displayed at a museum in nearby downtown Alexandria and not in Kensington since 1958.

    You too, can waste your precious time and see the stone for all of six dollars, but I will leave it for the readers to Google the Kensington Runestone Museum website.

    Indeed, I can list several “tourist attractions” from this area of northern Minnesota nearby Morris that one can visit with a short sampling below.

    Vergas (Giant common loon, the state bird)

    Fergus Falls (Giant otter)

    Frazee (Giant turkey)

    Nevis (Giant Muskellunge)

    Bemidji and Brainerd (Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox)

    This of course is just a sampling from off the top of my head, but nearly every good size town in northern Minnesota has some sort of seemingly silly tourist attraction.

  25. Jaime says

    Calvin Trillin wrote a fun (apparently out of print, sadly) comic novel entitled RUNESTRUCK set in Maine about a similar ‘discovery’ as the Kensington Runestone.

    There’s also the wonderful non-fiction MEGALITHOMANIA by John Michell which, among many things, covers the interpretation of random scratches and weathering marks on a megalith as runes by a well-known Swedish philologist(?) and his very poetic translations of said natural scribbles back in the 19thC. I don’t have the book in front of me so I can’t name names, unfortunately.

  26. madtom1999 says

    Just look for a mass extinction of native americans around the time the stone was meant to be crafted.

  27. Paul Simmons says

    I don’t care what anyone else says, America, you’re still Number One (in dubious roadside museums). If you’re more interested in history than kitsch, take a (long) trip north and east, to the beautiful island of Newfoundland, and see the national heritage site at L’Anse aux Meadows – no need to make up evidence of Vikings, we have a real archaeological dig to supply the evidence. It’s a really nice site (they have built three reproduction Viking longhouses) and the story is much more interesting than fiction. I visited it as a child and am planning to check it out again now that I am old enough to appreciate the more scholarly aspects (as opposed to being disappointed by the lack of horned helms and mighty battleaxes).

    (End of shameless plug for my home province.)

  28. says

    Crazy mormond dude, Rodney Meldrum, sites the Kensington Runestone as one of many proofs that the Book of Mormon is true, that the BoM presents a story of literal, actual history.

    http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/feature.php?id=9

    Beware, Meldrum is trying to sell DVDs to you. He’s also asking you to inform all LDS Church members of the truth of his theories and “evidence.”

    Declared “hoax” may be true; When this massive stone was discovered in 1898, it was immediately dismissed as a fake or a hoax. Swedish immigrant Olaf Ohman was clearing some land when he discovered the stone, enwrapped in the roots of a tree, and covered with ancient writing. The writing was recognizable as that of ancient Scandanavians, 8 Swedes and 22 Norwegians and told a story of their returning to camp to find 10 men killed…the date — 1362 AD, 130 years before Columbus! The stone, now called the Kensington Runestone is displayed in the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, MN. Experts, without even examining the stone, declared it a hoax, summarily dismissing it from further examination. Scott Wolter, a trained geologist began a real examination of the stone after being contacted by the museum in 2000. Tests on the weathering of the stone demonstrate that the stone could not have been inscribed more recently than 200 years from its being found. The evidence now suggests that the stone is real and that the ‘experts’ were wrong. This is the very same type of situation found with the vast majority of stones bearing Hebrew and Semitic scripts found in the heartland of America by farmers and land owners…they were immediately dismissed as forgeries and fakes by the so-called ‘experts’ of the day. Today, some still cling to these faulty reports, even when artifacts can be demonstrated to have impossible to forge at the time the forgery is assumed to have occurred.

    You will be pleased to know that Meldrum connects this so-called runestone not only to the Book of Mormon, but also to Ronald Reagan and to “God’s plan for his children.”

  29. RFW says

    Paul Simmons has it exactly right: the truth is always far more interesting than the various fictions and crazinesses that cranks crank out as explanations for this, that, and the other.

    This is a very broadly applicable principle, useful for fake runestones, Bacon-wrote-Shakespeare, British Israelites, screwy misinterpretations of archaeological and paleontological evidence of all types, and Dog only knows how many other fakes, fantasies, and fictions.

    The nutbars don’t know what they are missing.

  30. says

    Does anybody know who this Scott Wolter dude is? He shows up defending the Kensington Runestone as authentic:

    First of all, have you read any of my papers or books on the Kensington Rune Stone, or my report on the Bat Creek Stone? I think some people get confused about when I’m talking about hard scientific fact and speculation.

    The facts in geology, language, runes, dialect, grammar and the dating are consistent with the KRS being a genuine medieval aritfact. Further, the three Dotted R runes are the conclusive “silver bullet” that is undisputable.

    I know many long-time skeptics will be greatly disappointed, but the scholars simply didn’t have the necessary data available until recently. Sadly, they were also too arrogant to admit that they simply didn’t know.

    Quoted from: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2010/09/beck-on-bat-creek/#comment-108221

    Someone calling Wolter out on the questionable aspects of his theories wrote:

    An unqualified kook who thinks that the Kensington Runestone was carved by the Knights Templar in a period when the Knights Templar didn’t even exist anymore. I hate to break this to you, but when an unqualified kook advances theories which he has apparently just pulled from his arse and a whole bunch of extremely qualified people disagree – it is not the bunch of extremely qualified people who are being arrogant, it is the unqualified kook.

    Scott Wolter’s fans sound religious:

    It is clear that Scott knows the TRUTH and has to defend it from the stablishment wich doesn’t want us to know that knight templars are still among us, always conspiring. The same with the Bat Creek Stone where everybody failed again but not Scott.

    The Bat Creek stone is a favorite artifact in the Glenn Beck pseudo-archaeology lecture.

  31. daveau says

    Dorcheat@31-

    Bemidji and Brainerd (Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox)

    Everyone knows that the Brainerd Paul & Babe are forgeries. The real ones are in Bemidji. They have a museum and everything.

  32. Hank says

    My family is from Pope County, just down the road from Kensington. Now admittedly my experience with the people there doesn’t extend all the way back to 1898, but that area is chock full of people who like their jokes. Carving some runes on a stone and passing off as real is just the sort of joke on the city folk that they’d like to play.

  33. Brownian says

    For those interested in verifying hypotheses, the literal Google Translate output for “Öh mans fan vi ved hade ved sten” is “Uh man’s hell, we had wood wood stone”.

    [Goes off to listen to The Cure with his cat.]

  34. truthspeaker says

    But the left/right/left reading frame is not that unusual. “Boustrophedonic” writing – writing one direction and then the other on alternating lines, like an ox plowing a field back and forth (thus the etymology of the term) – was known in ancient times.

    I seem to remember it was common with Scandinavian runic writing as well – there are authentic inscriptions that alternate each line.

    As Medievalist pointed out, it’s one of the few things about the Kensington stone that actually looks authentic.

  35. truthspeaker says

    Egaeus says:
    17 November 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Wouldn’t there be the same number of words, no matter which way you counted them?

    It depends what you consider a “word”. It’s not as clear cut as you might think.

  36. Ulfhildr says

    The thing nobody has remarked on yet is the astonishing coincidence that a medieval Scandiavian artifact just happened to turn up in an area where a lot of Scandinavian immigrants settled.

    Now, if it had been found in, say, coastal New England, which is a more likely location for Vikings in the first place, and where large numbers of the local inhabitants *don’t* have an ancestral tie to the alleged creators of the artifact, it would look a lot less suspicious from the get-go.

  37. John says

    Well for the right price ol’ Newt G. the historian could spell it out for us or get the conservatives to vote yay on it being real.

  38. David Marjanović, OM says

    Maybe the stone is genuine after all. (pdf)

    In other news, I now get popup ads and a picture that has slipped below the first comment. On all but the fastest computers and Internet connections, popup ads are evil. Kill them with fire.

    Famously, Leonardo also used it, either to save time in his writing by not moving his hand back across the blank page for each line, or as a form of code.

    I thought he simply wrote all his secret stuff mirrored, because he was actually left-handed and therefore found it very easy to write backwards using his left hand?

    But names would have been important for their “memoria”, both on a secular level (for being remembered as these daring men who traveled to parts unknown) and from the standpoint of medieval Christians (who are presented as praying an “Ave Maria” in the inscription, after all), who would have been likely to want to be remembered in prayer.

    Hm, actually, names aren’t necessary for Catholic prayer. You’re right the lack of names requires an explanation, but it’s not that bizarre.

    According to the OP, the accused (and, if the coded message is true, admitted) Swedish forger was pretty crappy at Swedish grammar and spelling; apparently there are letters he wrote with ‘similar’ mistakes.

    Then why aren’t there such mistakes in the rune text itself?

  39. Pacal says

    The Kensington stone is in all likelyhood a late 19th century forgery, although some people still think it is for real. In fact a book Viking America makes that the claim it is authentic along with the rather dubious Vinland map.

    The stone actually goes together with a whole host of late 19th and early 20th century Viking “finds”, that are either out and out proven fakes or very dubious. In Canada we have the Beardmore find of a broken sword. The sword is indisputibly authentic but it appears it came over in the early twentieth century not the 13th or 14th century. Of course since L’Anse Aux Meadows was found and excavated, Norse remains have been found in indisputible old archeological context in various places in the Canadian arctic and their is of course the Maine penny.

  40. says

    One stone? No other evidence of the Vikings?
    WAIT!
    One of our high school football teams is called the Vikings, and we’re between Hudson Bay, and Minnesota if you took the long way around. That could be the missing link!

  41. says

    Don’t be so hard on the Vikes. They stink this year, but they are technically a pro team…

    Wait, you were talking about an actual high school team?

  42. peterh says

    @ #’s 31 &40:

    Paul Bunyan was chopping trees in Maine when Minnesota had no inhabitants beyond indigenous folks, some nutbar missionaries & a handful or trappers.

  43. Paul Hackett says

    Apologies for making my first ever post here one of exasperation, but this sort of stuff is annoying. Please ignore the following, as I am just venting.

    So this crew is supposed to have come via Hudson Bay (presumably through Hudson Strait) and landed in what is now Minnesota, apparently without alerting any of the First Nations people along the way? Maybe they sailed through James Bay via the Albany, Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River? Having worked extensively on the early history of Manitoba and northwestern Ontario I would suggest that is very unlikely.

    All sorts of things have gone on in Hudson and James Bays in the past (to say nothing of the route along Lake Winnipeg, assuming that they didn’t just fly to Minnesota), and few escaped the notice of the locals. I’ve seen references from long after the fact to massacres, epidemics, migrations and the demise of Jens Munk’s crew, as well as the possible fate of Henry Hudson. All of it gets taken up in the history of the region, Aboriginal and fur trade alike. There’s a bunch of white guys in a big boat sailing up the Red? I think someone’s gonna hear about it. Nothing in the Winter Counts or oral histories? I’m betting it didn’t happen. The same goes for wandering angels or prophets or lost tribes, or whatever.

    And, as for pan-hemispheric epidemics that wiped out massive numbers of Aboriginal people long before contact? You’d think they would have noticed.

    Again, my apologies, but i have very little tolerance for self-aggrandizement and self-promotion by some Europeans at the expense of the people who were here long before. Now, back to lurking.

    Paul

  44. crissakentavr says

    I was referring to the linked article. It states that one of the runes, an O with an N inside it, was not a rune known from the time it was supposedly written: Now Larsson points to the unique rune for Ö on the stone, which is an O with a small N inside. This is like in the second paragraph.

    What, you didn’t read the linked article before bloviating on it? O-o

  45. crissakentavr says

    And, as for pan-hemispheric epidemics that wiped out massive numbers of Aboriginal people long before contact? You’d think they would have noticed.

    Well, the ones who moved into territory that went vacant sure did. The ones who didn’t suffer these until later? Didn’t. Vocal histories are not very accurate nor detailed. Nor do they contain voices who were snuffed out.

    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting; that either white people were far more efficient in killing them or we overestimate their populations pre-colonization? Sure, probably. But saying that disease didn’t decimate the existing population would also be ahistorical.

    And would first nations have recorded vikings? I don’t know. They didn’t record much of the Viking settlements in North America we have archeological records for, either.

  46. ChasCPeterson says

    [Goes off to listen to The Cure with his cat.]

    This is a little unseemly, dude.
    (For one thing, your cat hates The Cure; they all do.)

    What, you didn’t read the linked article before bloviating on it?

    ‘Bloviating’? You’re adorable.
    And oh wait, I did say “(for the curious, it’s in PZ’s link to the OP)”; I guess that suggests I read it.

    have nice days you 2

  47. ChasCPeterson says

    Then why aren’t there such mistakes in the rune text itself?

    I don’t know that there aren’t.

  48. KG says

    Just look for a mass extinction of native americans around the time the stone was meant to be crafted. – madtom

    No such epidemic would be expected, because the site would have been at the end of a long chain of small settlements (Iceland – Greenland – North America) along which the transmission of epidemic diseases such as smallpox and measles would have been very unlikely. It is in any case known that the Vikings did reach North America centuries before the supposed date of these runes – the L’Anse aux Meadows site in Newfoundland is conclusive – so such an epidemic would have no bearing on the authenticity of this rune stone.

  49. peterh says

    Odd that thus far no one has mentioned Runic Records of the Norsemen in America, O. G. Landsverk, Rushford, Minn., 1974, ISBN 0-8057-5457-1.

  50. peter says

    Well, I guess it would be the only time in history that the ‘USians’ actually beat the ‘Canadians’ in a little war between them (despite the misinformation most of you got in your ‘history’ courses). So maybe it should be introduced into those courses, a falsehood that is perhaps harder to demonstrate to be that than are some which are already there. But those Minnesota natives aren’t really the right kind of ‘USians’ I suppose!

    To go from the ridiculous to the sublime, I conjecture that, despite the quite extraordinary feats of the Vikings, particularly in navigating the North Atlantic, it is quite possible that an American native spied Eurasian land before any Eurasian native spied American (remember, that’s much more than USian!–and “spied” means across the Atlantic, not near Alaska much earlier) land. Dorset people are known to have inhabited eastern Greenland before 870 or so, which is the first time an Icelander might have spied that part of Greenland from a high point on northwestern Iceland on a particularly fine day. The latter could possibly have first occurred from the sea of course. Here I have given as much credence to the myth that Irish monks earlier lived in Iceland as I do to the written story that St. Brendan stopped overnight on an island, but left quickly when it moved, turning out to be a whale. Also of course I am somewhat arbitrarily, but not being original in, assigning Iceland to be part of Europe and Greenland to be part of America.

  51. KG says

    Also of course I am somewhat arbitrarily, but not being original in, assigning Iceland to be part of Europe and Greenland to be part of America. – peter

    Geologically there’s no doubt Greenland is part of North America, while Iceland belongs to neither North America nor Europe, having formed on the mid-Atlantic ridge.

  52. peter says

    Quite right, but at least politically these days, Iceland is European. And culturally it always was, though the same could be said for the Greenland Viking settlements, as well as the Quebecois half a millenium later.

  53. MattMan says

    richardelguru, if you want to sound intelligent by using Old Norse words in stead of perfectly good English ones at least use the correct pluralization and the right letters: it’s víkingar, the singular is víkingr.

    What I have to say on this article I already wrote in the comments on Ye Olde Blogge (back at Sb).

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