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    The mysterious of Kensington Runestone

    Saturday, October 26, 2019 Last Updated 2019-10-26T11:36:14Z
    The Kensington Runestone is a 202-pound (92 kg) slab of greywacke covered in runes on its face and side. A Swedish immigrant, Olof Ohman, reported that he discovered it in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, USA, Douglas County, Minnesota, and named it after the nearest settlement, Kensington.

    The inscription purports to be a record left behind by Scandinavian explorers in the 14th century (internally dated to the year 1362).

    There has been a drawn-out debate on the stone's authenticity, but the scholarly consensus has classified it as a 19th-century hoax since it was first examined in 1910, with some critics directly charging the purported discoverer Ohman with fabricating the inscription.

    Nevertheless there remains a community convinced of the stone's authenticity.

    Swedish immigrant Olof Ohman said that he found the stone late in 1898 while clearing land he had recently acquired of trees and stumps before plowing. 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 × 16 × 6 inches (76 × 41 × 15 cm) in size and weighs 202 pounds (92 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."

    During this period the journey of Leif Ericson to Vinland (North America) was being widely discussed and there was renewed interest in the Vikings throughout Scandinavia, stirred by the National Romanticism movement.

    Five years earlier Norway had participated in the World's Columbian Exposition by sending the Viking, a replica of the Gokstad ship, to Chicago. There was also friction between Sweden and Norway (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. It is thought to be more than coincidental that the stone was found among Scandinavian newcomers in Minnesota, still struggling for acceptance and quite proud of their Nordic heritage.

    A copy of the inscription made its way to the University of Minnesota. Olaus J. Breda (1853–1916), professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature in the Scandinavian Department, declared the stone to be a forgery and published a discrediting article which appeared in Symra during 1910. Breda also forwarded copies of the inscription to fellow linguists and historians in Scandinavia, such as Oluf Rygh, Sophus Bugge, Gustav Storm, Magnus Olsen and Adolf Noreen. They "unanimously pronounced the Kensington inscription a fraud and forgery of recent date".

    The stone was then sent to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Scholars either dismissed it as a prank or felt unable to identify a sustainable historical context and the stone was returned to Ohman. Hjalmar Holand, a Norwegian-American historian and author, claimed Ohman gave him the stone.

    However, the Minnesota Historical Society has a bill of sale showing Ohman sold them the stone for $10 in 1911. Holand renewed public interest with an article enthusiastically summarizing studies that were made by geologist Newton Horace Winchell (Minnesota Historical Society) and linguist George T. Flom (Philological Society of the University of Illinois), who both published opinions in 1910.

    According to Winchell, the tree under which the stone was found had been destroyed before 1910. 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 around 30–40 years old. One member of the team who had excavated at the find site in 1899, county schools superintendent Cleve Van Dyke, later recalled the trees being only ten or twelve years old.

    The surrounding county had not been settled until 1858, and settlement was severely restricted for a time by the Dakota War of 1862 (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 estimated that the inscription was roughly 500 years old, by comparing its weathering with the weathering on the backside, which he assumed was glacial and 8000 years old. He also stated that the chisel marks were fresh.

    More recently geologist Harold Edwards has also noted that ""The inscription is about as sharp as the day it was carved... The letters are smooth showing virtually no weathering." Winchell also mentions in the same report that Prof. W. O. Hotchkiss, state geologist of Wisconsin, estimated that the runes were "at least 50 to 100 years." 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 on display at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.


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