The Kensington runestone is a 19th century fake from Minnesota. It purports to be a monument left behind by a Scandinavian expedition in the 14th century, but uses anachronistic turns of phrase and runic characters typical of 19th century popular culture. The runestone is nevertheless touted as authentic by enthusiastic local amateur scholars.
“8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west We had traps by 2 shelters one day’s travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils.
I have 10 men at the inland lake to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth Year of our Lord 1362”
In 2004, the stone was exhibited at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. The exhibition did not take sides in the debate over the thing: it centered on the idea that people use remains from the past to construct their identities. Myself and many colleagues felt that this exhibition was a disgraceful exponent of the post-modernist leanings of the museum’s non-archaeologist director, who has since been replaced. At the time, however, the runestone also underwent some scientific examination in Sweden that has not been reported on in print.
A few weeks back, fellow Kensington skeptic Carmen Moe contacted Fornvännen’s editors and asked if we knew anything about these scientific results. We did not. I became curious and wrote to the people responsible. Geologist Rune Löfvendahl of the National Heritage Board has kindly permitted me to translate & quote his reply:
“A company in Gothenburg did some 3D mapping with a stereo scanner for Dr. Laila Kitzler-Åhfeldt to study regarding the carving technique and groove profiles. In the end she didn’t receive any funding to actually perform the study, but the data is still around and useable. We also studied the stone by eye for a few hours. In this brief interval, however, we collected no quantitative data. Furthermore, we exchanged views with Scott Wolter, a geologist who has examined the stone. Neither his investigations nor our own impressions can date the inscription. As you can see, we don’t have enough material or results to write a reasonable paper.”
“The runological content is still more important to the dating issue than any available natural-science criteria. I’m sure the last word hasn’t been said yet: sooner or later someone will figure out a better method to pinpoint the date. But a method for direct dating of rock-carvings is hard to conceive of! The stone hasn’t exactly been treated with silk gloves since it was unearthed!
I have no problem with confessing my uncertainty in this case. I do, however, feel that it is suspect. I recall that when the exhibition opened, a journalist asked me if I could determine the stone’s age after looking at it for a minute or two. When I said ‘no’, he mumbled something about ‘scientific idiot’ — pretty laughable, really!”
So the runestone’s visit to Stockholm unfortunately didn’t really add anything worthwhile to the discussion of the inscription’s date.
I don’t believe any Scandinavian reached Minnesota until long after 1492. But solid archaeological evidence shows that they did reach Newfoundland in the 10th century. Did you know that L’Anse-aux-Meadows means “Jellyfish Cove”?