Another rune stone discovered
While most of Minnesota was in a tizzy about the new Vikings stadium, a gathering of true Viking fans was held at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria.
Authors Robert G. Johnson and Janey Westin, a father-daughter team and co-authors of The Last Kings of Norse America - Runestone Keys To a Lost Empire, led a discussion and book signing at the museum on Thursday May 10.
The book offers new evidence that Norse explorers walked - and sailed - this land between the time of Leif Eriksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni in 1000 and that of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Last Kings of Norse America presents the possibility that the Kensington rune stone in Minnesota may be linked to another rune stone found in North America. Both of which have Scandinavian roots, according to the authors.
"What is new, is that we have made this historical connection between this Kensington stone and another rune stone found in 1971 on the coast of Maine called the Spirit Pond stone," Johnson said.
Locals know the tale of how 10-year-old Edward Ohman found the Kensington rune stone on the Olaf Ohman family farm in 1898. Several decades later, an unidentified man found a smaller stone with runic carvings while searching for arrowheads - the Spirit Pond stone.
In 2001, Westin and Johnson were invited to visit the Runestone Museum. "We were given four and a half hours to examine the rune stone," Westin said.
Westin had heard her father's proclamation that the stone was not a hoax and she had read naysayers' accounts to the contrary. With the aid of good lighting and a microscope, Westin, a former fence sitter on the authenticity of the Kensington rune stone, became a believer.
"This thing is the real deal," Westin said.
Westin based her conclusion on observations in weathering on different surfaces of the stone that she saw under the microscope. Particular attention was paid to the area where Minnesota geologist Newton Winchell removed a chip for examination in 1909.
Westin said she was able to see significantly more wear and aging where the runes were carved when comparing fresh chisel marks with the glacially scratched surface from the last ice age 10,000 years ago.
"Way too much," Westin said. "Much more weathering than would be indicated if Mr. Ohman had carved it himself."
THE SPIRIT POND STONE
Westin and Johnson learned of the Spirit Pond stone while researching the Kensington stone. The researchers attest that both stones reference the same mission sent out by King Magnus of Norway and Sweden.
The Spirit Pond stone references a group of men who were lost during a fur trade expedition to North America led by Magnus' son, King Haakon VI of Norway.
Westin and Johnson said that a historic royal proclamation dated 1354 documents that Haakon was in fact on a journey to North America with his father's law speaker of Norway, Paul Knutson, during a time that corresponds with the age of the rune stones. Knutson would have been educated on reading and writing.
"If it is at all possible to get the skeptics to believe the authenticity of the stone," Johnson said, "history will do it."
The Spirit Pond stone is not dated but does state Haaken's age, 15, along with a memorial poem to 17 of his crew who sank on a ship in a storm.
"The date on the Kensington rune stone is written with pentadic numbers in Arabic numeral placement," said Westin. During the 1300s, Scandinavia was transitioning from one calendar style to another, which explains the Arabic style, she explained.
"I sincerely think this is authentic from a letter carver's point of view," Westin said. She added that letter spacing as exact as that on the Spirit Pond stone can only come with practice.
Much of the runic script is abbreviated on the stone, which is approximately seven inches across and weighs about five pounds. Westin and Johnson are the first to fully translate both the Kensington and Spirit Pond rune stones, said publicist Rachel Anderson. "The tricky part is figuring out what is missing," Westin said.
Westin of Edina is a professional calligrapher and stone letter carver. Johnson of Minnetonka is a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Westin owns a studio in Edina called Paper & Stone.