Do you like history’s riddles? I do.
Mysteries, especially those from the past, come as a good story mixed with a dose of scandal and intrigue.
The Kensington Rune Stone unearthed by Olaf Ohlman in Douglas County Minnesota is my latest quest.
Ohlman’s son, Edward, noticed the markings. At first the family took the markings as Native American. A local bank displayed the slab in a window, and the stone’s fame grew. Soon not only did experts in the US examine the stone, but so did historians, archaeologists, and linguistics experts from Sweden and Norway.
Almost unanimously experts claimed the stone a hoax.
And the Ohlman family paid dearly. People near and far heaped ridicule on the Ohlman’s. The family’s teenage daughter left home early to avoid the shame. Even worse, one of Olaf’s sons committed suicide.
The family turned the slab into a stepping stone on their farm, where it stayed until Hjalmar Holand purchased it in 1907.
Why do I believe the stone isn’t a fake? Among many other points, detractors haven’t been able to debunk Native American records of “tall, blond haired, blue eyed” travellers. The Hochunk (Winnebago) tribes have tales of “Red Horn” meeting “red haired giants” from pre-Columbian times.
And have you heard of L’Anse aux Meadows? Experts denied the possibility of that Viking settlement for years until overwhelming evidence proved them wrong.
Here’s more to consider…
*Ohlman (who spoke only Swedish) received no more than 6 weeks education. How could he have produced a written record such as is found on the stone?
*Carbon dating on a number of other artifacts found in the region points to the same time of the stone. Axe heads, spears, and fire steels (fire starters) correspond to 1362 – the date Rune Stone believers agree the stone was left in Minnesota.
*From written records, psychological studies report no evidence of fraud even decades later in the Ohlman family.
Some Theories about the Kensington Stone
*Paal Knutsson Voyage Theory In 1354 King Magnus of Sweden orders a voyage (led by Knutsson) to Greenland to investigate the state of the Christian church there. There’s no evidence they arrived, yet a smaller number of men arrive home in Norway ten years later. Some stipulate these men are part of the original, larger contingent sent in 1354.
Unfortunately, most written records were lost. With evidence of Vikings on Hudson Bay, the theory goes that Vikings travelled from the Hudson Bay to the Nelson River and finally to the Red River near Kensington Rune Stone was found.
*Norse Crusader Theory Researcher Margaret Leuthner provided credible evidence of patterns within the rune stone message on the face and on the side. She believes Norse Crusaders are responsible for the carvings.
*Battle of Visby Theory There was a major battle on Gotland in 1361 (Battle of Visby). Wealthy farmers were targeted next, and researcher Carl Festin thinks the rune stone came from those farmers who fled Gotland.
Take a look at the translation (front of the stone):
8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on this discovery voyage from Vinland over the west we had camp by 2 skerries one day’s journey north from this stone we were and fished one day after we came home found 10 men red from blood and Ave Virgo Maria save from evil have 10 men by the sea to see after our ship 14 day journeys from this island year 1362
There are 10 men by the inland sea to look after our ships fourteen days journey from this peninsula (or island). Year 1362.
What do you think? Did Vikings pass this way centuries ago?
Romantic Trivial Pursuit Question: What river would the Vikings have taken (that leads into Douglas County) where the Kensington Rune Stone was found? Be sure and post your answer at the top of the page.