Kensington Runestone

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Winning Nomination

The controversy over the Kensington Runestone brought Minnesota into the global spotlight. If the runestone is the real thing, it could prove that there were Scandinavians traveling as far west as Minnesota well before Columbus even set foot on our continent. If the runestone is a hoax, it should still be remembered for the renewed interest in the past it created.
~Tom Taff, Falcon Heights, MN



Runner-up Nominations

The Kensington Runestone is one of the most significant artifacts found in North America. It has been written about and studied by many throughout the world. Whether to view the stone or the discovery site, many tourists visit this part of the state each year to learn more about the Kensington Runestone and those who inscribed it. With the recent publication of the language and geological testing reported by Nielsen and Wolter, it is expected that even more interest in the stone will be generated. The Runestone's story can be told from many different views: the tragic story of Olof Ohman and his descendants, the mistakes made by ommission and perhaps commission by some of the early researchers, the myths and rumors that were promulgated and still exist, etc.
~Melvin E. Conrad, Kensington, MN

The Runestone is the single most significant archeological find in the region. It proves that Minnesota--specifically Kensington--was a possible destination for the Viking expeditions. It has never been truly discredited, though speculation does exist.
~Timothy G. Zilliox, Mora, MN

Fact or fiction, the story of the Kensington Runestone solidifies a romantic connection for many Minnesotans' Scandinavian heritage. And it may also show the world our dry sense of humor!
~Rick Clark, Chaska, MN

The Kensington Runestone was the proof that Columbus was not the first to discover America. There were Norsemen who walked our shores before Columbus and the predominately northern European settlers of this area were very proud of that fact. Whether it is authentic or fake it still remains a focal point for our state, our country and the world as the Birthplace of America.
~David P. Morse, Anoka, MN

The Kensington Runestone, despite MHS and Ted Blegen's disdain, finds new validity to its genuineness. Recent research and investigation shows that the Runestone, showing Norsemen, came to Minnesota in 1362, actually happened.

Richard Nielsen and Scott F. Wolter demonstrate that the runes match Scandinavian runes available in the 14th Century and that the dating of the stone is consistent with the reported finding of it in the late 1800s in Minnesota. Much of their findings refute Professor Blegen's and the MHS's skepticism of the stone.

Nevertheless, the study of the stone, its controversy, and the refusal of MHS to consider its genuineness all make for a piece of an interesting and monumental flyer into the people, geography and legend of Minnesota.
~Neil Simonson, Morris, MN

For better or worse, the Kensington Runestone is unequivocally linked to the history and image of Minnesota.

Its discovery in the late 18th century was so difficult for archaeologists to accept that several of them resorted to extreme and sometimes unethical means to discredit it. To this day, it is still considered common knowledge that it is a hoax. Despite the fact that each justification for the hoax claim has been soundly discredited, it is only in the last decade or so that the Kensington Runestone has begun to gain acceptance from mainstream archaeologists. A significant irony of the incident is that many of the grammatical anomalies that were pointed out by the experts as evidence of a hoax have since been shown to be valid for the time period of the stone. These anomalies now act as proof that it could not have been forged. At the time the stone was found, not even the world's leading experts knew that the grammar used in the inscription was correct. As things turned out, much of the justification for the grammar of the stone has been found in documents that were already in museums when the stone was found. They just weren't adequately studied until recently.

Several geological examinations of the stone have all concluded that the stone is authentic. No geologist has ever reported any evidence that the stone was forged.

Given the high portion of Minnesotans of Scandinavian heritage, it seems somehow appropriate, that 14th-century Norse explorers would leave this significant, historical artifact here, where it would eventually be found by a later generation of Norse immigrants.
~Reid Isberg, Minnetonka, MN

Found on Olof farm in Kensington. This was proof America was discovered before Columbus.
~Scott Torvi, St. Paul, MN

The Vikings were in North America before Columbus -and first here in Minnesota!
~Richard Gabatino, Minneapolis, MN

While I'm sure that other people will submit this, I decided to do it just to be sure. Whether or not the stone that Olaf Ohman said he found in 1898 is real or a hoax, it has caused endless debate and generated numerous books and articles. As you know, the discussion still continues today. And just think---if it had not been discovered our professional football team might be called the Minnesota Voyageurs.
~Steve Trimble, St. Paul, MN


Contents

History

For more than a century, the debate has raged on

Quick--what Minnesota treasure was described as an "important archaeological object" when it was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in 1948? Was it

a) a chunk of limestone found beneath St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis;
b) a copper kettle retrieved from Lake Superior; or
c) the Kensington Runestone?

Yup-it was the Runestone. The celebrated slab was returned to Minnesota the next year and was featured in Territorial Centennial celebrations, where debates about its authenticity continued as they had since it first came to light a half century before.

The story of the Runestone is familiar to many Minnesotans. In 1898, Olof Ohman, a Swedish immigrant who farmed near Kensington in Douglas County, said he and his son had found the stone while clearing trees on his land. Symbols--or "runes"--had been carved into the stone, which, when translated, suggested that Scandinavian explorers had left it behind in the year 1362. It was an amazing find, but when the scholarly community pronounced the runes a modern forgery, Ohman removed the stone from the spotlight and began using it as a steppingstone to his barn. In 1907, though, Norwegian American journalist Hjalmar Holand visited Ohman, took the stone, and the next year published a book declaring the Kensington Runestone's authenticity. People have been taking one side or the other in the matter ever since.

Whether we believe Ohman's story or not, the impact of the Kensington Runestone on the popular imagination over the past century has been tremendous. It traveled to the New York World's Fair in 1965 and to Sweden in 2003, where Ohman's relatives living there viewed it for the first time. It is an object of civic pride in Alexandria, the seat of Douglas County, where a monumental Runestone was erected in 1951 as a tourist attraction. The original stone is displayed in Alexandria's Runestone Museum, and the Ohman farm has been preserved as Kensington Park. A number of local organizations, including the Runestone Electric Association and Our Lady of the Runestone Catholic Church, keep the stone's image alive. It is a reminder of the power of the past and the undeniable thrill of a good mystery.

The inscription on the Runestone has been translated as follows:
"We are 8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on an exploration journey from Vinland through the West. We had camp by a lake with 2 skerries one day's journey north from this stone. We were out and fished one day. After we came home, we found 10 of our men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from evil. We have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships, 14 days' journey from this island. Year 1362."

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