Kensington Runestone Faker's Signature Found

i-99e17a64e823299d6c7b23c48f713e2b-KensingtonRunestone-225.jpgThe Kensington runestone of Minnesota is a rather obvious 19th century fake. But in a recent paper in Saga och Sed 2010, Mats G. Larsson shows something less obvious: the hidden signature of the stone's carver, who also was its finder.

Olof Ãhman came from Forsa in Hälsingland, central Sweden. He claimed to have found the stone among the roots of an aspen tree he had felled with his son. Now Larsson points to the unique rune for à on the stone, which is an O with a small N inside. This looks a lot like O-n, an abbreviation of the man's surname. And as it turns out, Ãhman came from a farmstead named Ãn, "the island", which is likely where his name came from. This is pretty suggestive. But the clincher is found in some simple cryptography.

Ãhman owned a copy of the book Den kunskapsrike skolmästaren, which contains a short section on numeral cryptograms. One of the first things that stick out about the Kensington inscription is the unparallelled preponderance of numbers in it. They form the following sequence:

8 - 22 - 2 - 10 - 10 - 14 - 13 - 62

To get a comprehensible message, Larsson flips this sequence over:

62 - 13 - 14 - 10 - 10 - 2 - 22 - 8

The inscription has twelve lines. Larsson counts the words from the left on odd-numbered lines and from the right on even-numbered lines, arriving at the following:

62: öh
13: mans (jumping up to the penultimate line when the end of the last line is reached)
14: fan
10: vi
10: ved
2: hade
22: ved (jumping down to the second line when the end of the first line is reached)
8: sten

"Ãh mans fan vi ved hade ved sten", or in English, "The Ãhmans found. We kept/collected firewood at the stone."

So Olof Ãhman probably told the truth when he said he found the stone while collecting firewood. And then he carved an inscription on it.

Larsson sums up (and I translate),

"... this is not strictly a case of forgery, but of a practical joke gone wrong through the gullibility of others. ... Ãhman himself may have been both surprised and a little disappointed to find that his hints about who made the inscription were never noted, and as time passed it became successively more difficult for him to confess. After his rune stone gained acceptance in wider circles through skilful marketing by others, it became almost impossible for him to come clean with his honour intact.

According to John Gran's son [J. Gran was Ãhman's neighbour], Olof Ãhman once expressed a strong wish to write something that would fool society, the people and particularly academics, towards which he was extra hostile. The end result of his prank was not however quite what he had hoped for: academics in the runic field were not fooled, but non-academics were."

Larsson, M.G.. 2010. Vem ristade Kensingtonrunstenen? Saga och sed 2010. Uppsala.

More like this

Interesting, tx - but of course Vikings did reach the Americas (even the mainland) ca. 1000 AD etc. What is the best source about their history there?

There are only two or three pretty weak written sources on the travels of Scandinavians westward from Greenland, all dating from long after the events. As for archaeology, there's really only the site at L'Anse aux Meadows, "Jellyfish Bay".

But maybe you mean a good popular book on the subject? Sorry, no idea.

Neil @1: There is an extensive section on the Greenland Norse in Jared Diamond's Collapse; he made that society a case study because just about everything that could go wrong for them did go wrong.

I have heard claims of Viking artifacts found as far south as Maine and as far west as Hudson Bay. I don't know if those claims are true (Martin might). Even if they are, that doesn't mean the Vikings themselves brought those artifacts there; more likely natives either found them or acquired them in trade, and then carried them west and south, or traded them to groups based further west and south.

It is known that the Vikings attempted to settle in Newfoundland and intentionally abandoned the settlement (they took the door with them). It is probable that the Greenland Norse acquired firewood in Labrador, which is part of the mainland. That the Vikings may have visited Maine or Hudson Bay is plausible but unproven. There is no plausible way the Vikings could have reached present day Minnesota, which is why this runestone was an obvious fake.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2011 #permalink

I dunno, I find the analysis too Bible-codish and the resulting text is still gibberish after all those operations. Not that that says anything about the authenticity of the inscription.

There is no conclusive evidence on the authenticity of the KRS. It could be authentic, it could be a hoax. I don't find this claim very persuasive at all. I don't believe there is any possibility Olaf Ohman carved the stone himself, and even if he had he wouldn't have coded his identity onto it. It is possible someone else carved the stone, who knows how long before its discovery, and that Ohman was complicit in the contrived finding. But in that scenario, it makes even less sense that his identity would be on the stone.

This theory is about as arcane as all the wild notions about who carved it in 1362 and why. All conjecture.

Kai, I don't find Larsson's suggested decrypt to be gibberish at all. It's a clear restatement of what Olof Ãhman said publically about finding the stone.


Why choose that particular way of counting the words? What messages could you get if you chose some other, equally arbitrary way of counting? How would you know that this is the correct message?

Maybe this is discussed in the original paper.

I think you interpolated quite a few words in your translation:

Ãhmans found (devil?, was "fan" a common spelling of "fann" ?) we firewood had firewood (why translate this "ved" into at, rather than firewood? Other than that this fits the story you had in mind from the beginning.) stone.

I would only be able to make sense of that sentence if I already knew the story about Ãhman finding the stone while collecting firewood. Also, if you were going to leave a secret message on the rune-stone you were forging: why would you just re-tell the made up story?

The message makes no sense to me, and like kai says the method seems a bit bible-codish.

Why choose that particular way of counting the words?

Because it produces an intelligible message. Larsson has tried several.

Larsson refers to letters written by Ãhman that demonstrate the same shaky spelling and dialectal characteristics.

f you were going to leave a secret message on the rune-stone you were forging: why would you just re-tell the made up story?

Larsson's idea is that Ãhman made the stone with the intention of revealing his prank eventually ("I only said I found the stone, not that it had any letters on it!"), but then found himself unable to do so without being severely criticised.

The Kensington Runestone has been proven as authentic, not based on linguistics, but based on science. Scott Wolter, a geologist, has proven (with science!) the inscription long predates Ohman. Lots of linguists have given their two cents for and against it's authenticity, but if I had to choose an argument I would go with the scientific one.

I'd also like to point out that this article has ONE SOURCE. I teach high school, and I would never accept a paper with one source. Come on, research before coming to such an absolute conclusion! At least present and argue the opposing point....

By Val Miller (not verified) on 17 Nov 2011 #permalink

I may be wrong on this, I haven't looked into it closely enough, but I was in a class with a prominent Old Norse scholar last week and she mentioned the rune stone, stating unequivocally that it's a hoax.

Perhaps she was just being vehement rather than reasoned, but from what I remember, she said that the stone utterly fails because the forger made the mistake of using modern Nordic language/word-order that would be linguistically incorrect in the Viking period.

if I had to choose an argument I would go with the scientific one

I do not think that word means what you think it means. Linguistic analysis is just as much science as geological analysis is -- the question turns on how reliable the analysis is. Wolter is, in your words, "ONE SOURCE", and his claims have not, AFAIK, been confirmed.

linguistically incorrect in the Viking period

That argument doesn't sail, as the inscription is dated 1362. See

By truthmachine (not verified) on 17 Nov 2011 #permalink

It doesn't seem at all Bible-Codish to me. The Bible Code would infamously use variable numerical methods, jumping from one to another (what ever would find a result) to find words 'encoded' into a block of text. The resulting words could be from just about any language (again, whatever found a result), in any direction (backward, forward, up, down, crosswise), and the result still ignored any sentence structure. Larsson's technique is using a strict algorithm and finds a sensible end result.

Thous invoking Scot Wolter as a scientific source, it should be pointed out that ignoring certin facts, speculation, and false data does not make good science.

Very interesting analysis -- thanks for discussing (and translating!) It's excellent that Professor Larsson is looking at the stone from a new and innovative angle. However, his counts don't seem to actually produce the results shown above (I may be doing something wrong in following his methodology). I discuss here.
(Full URL:… )
Please correct me if I am misunderstanding the methodology used.

Best regards,


Like so many of my own blog posts ... full of interesting encrypted messages that no one ever sees or understands...

Anyway, as you may have learned on your visit to Minnesota, depending on whom you spoke with, the folks from the immediate area around the farm all pretty much know of the stone as a practical joke. It is fascinating to see how many archaeologists have been, for a while, taken in.

Having said that, it is true that many of the arguments against the stone's Viking origin are not impressive arguments. But they don't need to be. A lot of arguments that leprechauns don't exist are pretty wishy washy too.

As an archaeologist doing compliance work in New England and New York for several years, I've seen a LOT of Viking artifacts. Usually they are in a historical society display case, occasionally a local historian would just pull them out and show them to me as I was making the round speaking with the locals about the local history. Occasionally I would be tracked down while digging somewhere, etc. etc.

Here in Minnesota I've seen only one very interesting item along these lines, but it would have been more of a Central European Gothic (or something) weapon.

None of them were real, sadly.

David M, your blog doesn't seem to allow commenting. I suggest you turn it on to improve interaction with readers. But I believe the problem lies here: "He commenced at the first line and counted sixty-two words from the left, to find the word 'öh.' He then proceeded to the second line and counted thirteen words from the right". This is not what Larsson does.

Larsson does commence at the first line and count sixty-two words. But on every odd-numbered line he always counts from the left, and on every even-numbered line he always counts from the right. After finding the word "Ãh", he counts another 13 words from that word.

I have met and debated with Mats Larsson in Sweden and he is a completely unobjective, ardent opponent of the KRS and will invent anything to try and discredit it.

Interjecting rumors, yet again, to the KRS debate wouldn't be admissible in a court of law; why does Larsson think it has any merit here?

The facts are clear, concise, and consistent. The tombstone weathering study I performed in my material forensic laboratory in 2003, clearly showed the inscription to be older than 200 years from the date it was pulled from the ground in 1898.

This makes a late 19th Century hoax impossible, and leaves only one other obvious possibility. I could go on with voluminous factual geological, runological, linguistic, dialectic, and historical evidence that is consient with the KRS being a genuine medieval artifact.

Quite frankly, publishing this nonsense is irresponsible.

By Scott F. Wolter P.G. (not verified) on 21 Nov 2011 #permalink

Larrson, like all detractors, chooses to ignore the hard science data (geology) of the stone that indicates the inscription is far older than Olaf's time, as determined by one of the most eminent geologists of the early 20th century, Professor Winchel. The "softer" science (linguistics) has also left holes in the arguments against the dialectic "anomalies" with the more recent discovery the E-dialect which is wholly consistent with the date on the stone, showing it seems to a real possibility. However, that dialect was not described in any of the scholarly works available in Ohman's period.
As for the "difficulties" of long distance travel to the Kensington, MN area, it is generally accepted that some hundreds of Norman mercenaries traveled overland on foot between the Danish coast and Istanbul to fight for pay. That straight line distance is some 2000 kilometers or 1260 miles through some hostile areas. And they carried their weapons down and carried their weapons and their booty back.
To walk from, say, Portland, Maine to Kensington is a distance of some 1640 miles and the river crossings are less arduous than walking to Istanbul. If the members of the Kensington party were able to sail into Hudson Bay, build some riverine craft, and use the rivers coming off the bay, they could sail to very near present day Kapuskakasing, Ontario. The overland journey to Kensington from there was a comparative cakewalk at 800 miles.
Even more to the point, the Kensington Rune Stone isn't the only odd stone to be found in the area: a vast array of "stone holes", what Hjalmar Holland portrayed as "mooring stones", extends all across the upper tier of the US. Holand chose to rationalize the variations in altitude and stayed with the "mooring holes" until his death, but the extent of the stone holes from the east coast to the west well beyond Kensington may indicate a an organized survey using the stone holes as surveyors' benchmarks.
While there is no direct evidence to tie the stone holes directly to the rune stone, their very consistent size and distribution is very consistent with an organized , large area survey.
Getting back to the "soft science" of linguistics, the "fishing" reference within the text of the rune stone may be a colloquial or trade lexicon reference to the English equivalent "casting", which is a surveying term that remained in use well into the 18th, and possibly still used into the 19th century.
All in all, the "ancilliary" evidence speaks for more than against the validity of the Kensington Rune Stone.

Sorry guys, you're flogging a dead horse. The consensus among professional runologists and archaeologists remains that the stone was carved in the late 19th century. I suggest you devote your energies to real Minnesotan archaeology instead. I believe the record goes all the way back to Clovis, right?

Ohman was clearing land for farming, not cutting firewood. Aspen trees make lousy heating/cooking firewood.

By Damon Capps (not verified) on 21 Nov 2011 #permalink

Common stupidity is when one takes a partial view of a situation and acts as if it represents the whole situation.

So did Olman travel to Oklahoma and leave those runes for us to puzzle over also? Or how about those runes in Arkansas? Was he there also?

Please see my posting on you tube 'The Log of the Kensington Rune Stone'. I have another viewpoint to tell you about those inscriptions. Mine is based on scientific observation and research, you don't have to take my word for any of the facts I speak of.

By Mark Johnson (not verified) on 22 Nov 2011 #permalink

Haha, yeah, "common stupidity" must be the reason that scholarly consensus accepts none of these inscriptions as authentic...

Very interesting. I'm wondering however if anyone here can offer information dating (theoreticaly) even farther back in time in New England. People have found Ancient Pheonician coins in the merrimack river banks in lowell MA. Is there any truth in these finds? If so, should the Pheonicians have been able to travel this far why not the Norse? Another adept sea faring people?

The textural debunking is based on a uniformity of literacy among a largely illiterate Viking population without a Vatican. The Vikings already had a longer more arduous portage to the Volga than what they had going around Niagra to get into lake Ontario and Superior, and if they'd heard of the Mississippi watershed, would've been a nobrainer to portage across MN looking for it. The longboat portage across Minnesota snows would've been a well established technique. There's also the curious rapid collapse of Cahokia that Viking introduction of pandemics explains.

To Myron Paine.
If you look up "Top Ten Viking Hoaxes" you will se what the
texts on a number of American "rune" stones really are dealing with.

By Steinar Skailand (not verified) on 28 Nov 2011 #permalink

Dr. philos. Kjell Aartun (The eminent Norwegian)has written a new book, dealing with old inscriptions.
It is printed by the German firm "Harrassowitz Verlag".
Title:"Mehrsprachige altsemitische Kultinschriften".
The book is in German language.
ISBN:978-3-447-o6574-0. Price 98,00 Euro.
That book should convince "the most sceptical".

By Steinar Skailand (not verified) on 03 Dec 2011 #permalink

ISBN is: 978-3-447-06574-0.

By Steinar Skailand (not verified) on 04 Dec 2011 #permalink

One individual stated "Wolter is, in your words, "ONE SOURCE", and his claims have not, AFAIK, been confirmed."
In fact ALL geologists have confirmed his basic findings that the stone was carved before olaf was alive. 99% agree to his and Wenchel (another geoligist) dating it to at least 500 years prior to its discovery.
As for the claim its language is modern norse that has been disproved. Finally the hooked X and dotted R has been linguistically PROVEN to have been used ONLY from 1000 to 1450 AD.
Until recently anti-kennsington scholars claimed this PROVED the stone was a hoax. NOW having proven it was in use from 100 to 1450 they are silent. Because a faker would never have used a form that NO EXPERT at the time knew of. Unless Olaf was a GREATER linguist then ALL the experts. If someone wants to support THAt claim fine.

As a result of ten years of historical research and a rigorous translation of the Spirit Pond runestone found in Maine in 1971, We now know that King Magnus Eriksson of Norway and Sweden sent an expedition to North America in 1356 to attempt to restore the fur trade that had ceased when the Greenland merchants abandoned their homes and migrated to the continent. The expedition's unsuccessful attempt to locate the Norse farmer-traders on the plains of the Dakotas and Minnesota resulted in the inscription on the Kensington runestone, and during the voyage to Hudson Bay to get to that area, one ship with 17 Norsemen was lost in a storm. The chivalric poem memorializing their loss was inscribed on the Spirit Pond runestone found by Walter Elliott in 1971. Stay tuned.

I find it interesting that a guy who is supposedly learned enough to write in runic skrift as well as use cryptography would not make his hidden message more grammatically correct.

I think your findings fall under junk science.

Your study seems to be junk science.

I recommend you do more research on the book's owned by Olof.

Some years ago I published an essay by Ola J. Holten claiming that the Kensington Stone is genuine. I can't claim any special expertise in this area, but knowledge of similar artefacts such as some of the ogam stones in South Wales convinces me that an open mind will achieve better results than a closed one. And it also takes an expert to recognise an artefact for what it may be when first finding it. The day we say with absolute certainty what something of such nature is or isn't is the day when we stop learning. The short inscriptions on the Heavener stone and the "Medoc" stone are one thing, and could easily be an antiquarian "doodle" , but the Kensington Stone is much more fulsome: if a "fake" it is a fascinating illustration of the intellectual life of certain Nordic settlers at that time: if a "fake" or not, long may it remain a puzzle and an enigma, so that the human intellect can be free to play upon it, and find out deeper levels of rune lore or how someone has interpreted rune lore at whatever date and place can be applied to it! No more puzzling than the known puzzles so often taken for granted, such as how the Anglo-Saxon church at Bradford on Avon was constructed, or how they managed to import every chip of stone from Caen in Normandy to build the huge mass of Norwich cathedral, to name just two examples from my recent investigations. Nordic history has now been extremely well examined, and it is worthwhile for users of English to acquire a bit of reading knowledge of Danish, Swedish, etc. and try to examine the sources in the original, as I have tried to do when I can get my hands on them. It's useless to try and sort out the Kensington Stone from a position of ignorance or simply to dismiss or support local patriotism - and its very existence can set the scholar off on all kinds of armchair adventures, that reinforce the excitement that we naturally feel about the things of the past - especially the more puzzling ones!

By Joseph Biddulph (not verified) on 16 Sep 2012 #permalink

" And as it turns out, Öhman came from a farmstead named Ön, “the island”, which is likely where his name came from."

Completely wrong claim. The farmstead name Ön means 'deserted farmstead', NOT 'the island'. There's a bunch of places called Ön and Önet in Central Scandinavia, farmstead deserted once in history and often resettled again (as in this particular case).

So it is clearly a fake huh? Too bad it was confirmed to be genuine. Nice try though

you said the stone has 12 lines but from all the pics i have seen it has only 9, and as far as the code i took a random book used the code and 5 times out of 10 came up with an intelligent sentence i just opened it to different pages and started counting. to me that says the code is of no use and you state he used the code backwards to make sense, i cant understand why olaf would put it in there backwards it would be hard enough forward this doesnt make sense to me

By jillydoll (not verified) on 03 Feb 2013 #permalink

What about the account given by the H 2 Discovery channel ; making the stone authentic? Is H2 so far off from the truth ?

By Gabe Collazo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2013 #permalink

Yes,the Discovery Channel is almost as bad as the History Channel when it comes to accuracy.

I believe that WE MUST ALL REMAIN! open to all possibilities because if not WE will ALL suffer for rewritting history incorrectly; once more. It is our responsibility and quest to do so! The truth is the child of GOD. If you keep your heart as pure as the one of a child you'll be always in God's favor and the truth will set you free! So lets not get ahead of ourselves and give time to rewritting history correctly this time. this are exciting times. The Rewritting of History!

By Gabe Collazo (not verified) on 03 Feb 2013 #permalink

The norsmen who carved the Kensington rune stone were
camped on the shores of the then much wider lake Agassiz
I believe, by the time the French and other settlers arrived hundreds of years later, the lake had receded, leaving their
docking area far inland. Apparently they had a run in with
local indians, which was told of in other viking sagas to

Sceptics are soft in the head, and hard in the heart.
Just look at the facts, not proud assumptions that you
are right and others wrong.

You know its hard to tell but from all accounts of older family members we believe the stone to real. My father also said they worked so hard on the farm that there was little time for this to happen KL Ohman

By kim l ohman (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Funny how people think they know everything

I can't find any claim that the namn Ön means "deserted farmstead". Provide a source
I'm not saying your wrong but its not easily found.

I however find an interesting meaning in the Swedish etymological dictionary (swedish only)
Far down: "Ordet ö ingår
f. ö. i en mängd ortnamn, såsom det
vanliga Ön o. Öna (best. f.), ofta i
betyd, ’upphöjning över sank mark’, "
My translation : The word ö is part of a number of city names as in the common Ön or Öna often in the meaning, "risen over a marsh"
Probably incorrectly translated but the essence is that its much more an island then a deserted homestead.
Mats G Larsson also write in : Kensington 1898 Runfyndet som gäckade världen. p 122:( i just translate)
"Ön (the island) is a nice farm in Hälsingland with a high position"
"But how could a farm far from the lake be called Ön? Well the family farm had previously been on an island in the lake Långsjön in the same county."
So Larsson is definitely not wrong in this case.
But it doesn't actually prove anything?

Interesting findings. Anyone ever watch America Unearthed ? There is a very good story in the series which claims the authenticity of the stone. I really know next to nothing of the finder of the K stone, but i would certainly believe he pranked this if he was in any manner , interested in Archeology. the coincidence that he would find something of such importance while interested in this field, is too unbelievable to believe him. The sone has been authenticated as having been carved out by Pre columbian people. If the Vikings made it to America , they could have made it to Minnesota water ways. Eveidence has been found of Pre Templars reaching the Arizona area, leaving many items incrusted very deeply into the lands . Well, in any case, Columbus did not discover America. I feel this article is good information, but there were root impressions deeply imbedded into the stone which would have taken much longer than the date thsi stone was discovered. MYSTERY>>>

In having lived in Northern Minnesota not far from the K. Stone all of my life, we as children played in the woods and swam the river. There are two rivers that meet to create One river at a point. called The Point. Templars made it to Minnesota and used the waterways to travel both north and south. nearly 46 years ago, we found two raw stones with engravings in the woods not far from the river. Being so young, we found them as curiousity but no importance. In my attempts to recreate the engravings, I made a very large pot in pottery class and made some engravings to mimic the stones we had found I still have. I have believed for some years now that we had actually found Grave Stones. At that age , i had NO knowledge of any Heirogliphics or other languages, and as i look at the engravings i did as a child, they resemble Rune markings although i couldnt remember the true stones markings. Any evidence now, so many years later would have been wiped out with the ongoing Floods but it could have been the flooding that actually had uncovered these stones so many years ago. When i heard of the K. Stone, I knew , that the Templars had made it to Minnesota using the waterways and they did leave either land markers or grave markers behind that we had found. Without the daily traffic of children in the woods , they have grown over thickly. We had a tree fort and that is where i left the stones, so many years later i tried to get down there to find them, but couldnt even get into the woods. The river is one of the only rivers in the world that flows North all the way from Louisianna I think. Norwegians have lived in Northern Minnesota long before Colunbus ever landed in America. The K. Stone, is proof of the templars having traveled from here to the South of Minnesota. There had been a large Lake at that time, and the K. Stone was a land marker, near that Lake. If the stones we found were grave stones,