By Robert Voyles, Minnetonka, MN
Did Olof Ohman make iron "from scratch?" Not likely – and for this reason, I'm hoping a reader may recognize what this pictured iron object is, possibly from medieval times. I found it on Runestone Hill several years ago after a windstorm had passed through the area.
Ironically, the object had been exposed and it was clutched within aspen tree roots, reminiscent of how the Kensington Runestone itself was discovered clutched within a tangle of aspen roots. But, perhaps the best way for me to tell you about stumbling upon the strange object is by quoting from the statement I prepared at the time:
I spent most of August 11, 2011 at Runestone Park getting a feel for the land, and I noticed a storm had uprooted two trees very near where the Kensington Runestone was found. It seemed odd to me that the trees ended up not toppling over in the direction of the wind, and I was trying to figure this out when I saw what appeared to be a reddish-colored small rock in the bottom of the largest hole made by the storm. The object was made more evident because of the late-day sun angling into the hole. I bent over to pick the rock up and quickly discovered that it was made out of metal, most likely iron, in my mind.
Supposing that the object might be an important artifact, I took a couple of photos and returned it back into the hole exactly as it had been, angling downward from 15" to 18" below the surface of the upheaved ground. I took another photo. Fearing that the object could be stumbled upon by someone else without regard for history, I placed two small clods of dried earth over it to hide it from view until the proper authorities could come to take care of it. Then I took another photo of that, too.
The following morning, August 12, 2011, I stopped by the museum in Alexandria on my way back to the park and reported my find, and I got the number for the Public Works Department for Douglas County and called and reported my find. I explained exactly where the object was and that I had covered it over with a couple of small clods of earth. When I arrived at the park within an hour or so, two gentlemen from the Surveyor's Office had already arrived and removed the object and were taking various measurements and some photos.
I went to extra lengths not only to preserve the object's provenance as much as possible, but also to protect it from possible theft. The object was never removed from the site until the proper authorities came to remove it. (End of statement.)
Lab tests I paid for several years ago revealed that the object is indeed mostly iron. Apparently, iron blooms were a valuable commodity to Scandinavians in medieval times. Research suggests that iron blooms were sometimes left as cult offerings in Iceland, and Central Norway was one of the most important areas for medieval-era iron production. (Twenty-two of the 30 men making up the "KRS party" were from Norway.)
So, what was this object's function, if any, and where did it originate from? How did it end up being deeply buried on Runestone Hill, only about 30 paces or so up the hill from where the KRS was unearthed in 1898?
I hope a reader may be able to propose an answer to one or more of these questions. If so, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (As a footnote, the iron object seen here was moved several months ago from the Douglas County Surveyor's office to the Runestone Museum for safekeeping.)