The Kensington Runestone

The Kensington Runestone is a large stone with runes carved in it that some believe may have been carved by Vikings. It is 31 inches tall, 16 inches wide, six inches thick and it weighs 202 pounds. The interesting thing about the Kensington Runestone is that it was discovered in Minnesota. If it is authentic, it will change the history of the United States as we know it. On the other hand, its authenticity is a mystery. Many people believe it to be a hoax.

The story goes that the Kensington Runestone was found in a small farming community near Kensington, Minnesota in 1898. Some versions say that a boy named Edward Ohman found it. Other versions say that it was his father, Olof Ohman who found it. It may have been found in the roots of a tree, but that is uncertain. It was certainly found underground. At least, every version of the story has it that way. Regardless of how it was discovered or who discovered it, the Kensington Runestone wound up in the hands of Olof Ohman, who began looking for an explanation. There is no evidence that he actively sought monetary gain from the Kensington Runestone.

kensington runestone

The Kensington Runestone

No one claimed to be able to translate fully the Kensington Runestone until 1907, when a University of Wisconsin graduate with a history major named Hjalmar R. Holand came up with the following translation. “8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on exploration journey from Vinland over the west. We camp by two skerries one day journey from this stone. We were and fished one day. After we came home, 10 men red with blood and tortured. Hail Virgin Mary. Save from evil. Have 10 men by the sea to look after our ship, 14 day journey from this island year 1362.” Five members of the Minnesota Historical Society investigated the stone for 1.5 years and concluded that it was authentic.

There is some evidence that the Vikings may have made it as far as Minnesota. What appear to be five Viking campsites, where holes have been carved in the rocks similar to those used by Vikings to moor boats, have been found between Hudson Bay and Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Some Norse-looking tools have been found in the area as well. It is postulated that some Vikings became stranded in the U.S. when they could not make it back to their ship in time for the return voyage. This would explain why some of the Mandan Native American tribes in the area had blue-eyed individuals and knowledge of Christianity before accepted history tells us they should have learned about Christ.

None of these things is certainly proof that Vikings at least visited the area or prove that the Kensington Runestone is authentic. The only other evidence that can be taken into account is the Kensington Runestone itself. It was once “proven” to be a hoax by a runologist who did not recognize one of the characters on the stone. Later, another runologist found the somewhat rare rune in other texts. This does not prove the Kensington Runestone is real, either. However, it does prove that if it is not real, it is going to be hard to prove it is not real. This brings us to the possible hoax theory.

People who do not believe the Kensington Runestone is authentic typically assume that Olof Ohman made it. That possibility raises a few questions. Firstly, why would he do it, if not for money? He may have done it for attention, but why bother? Secondly, how did such a simple man have knowledge of runes like these? If one of the runes was really so rare that a runologist could not recognize it, how did Olof? Lastly, if Olof did have knowledge of runes, why didn’t anybody know about it? To believe Olof made the Kensington Runestone, you would have to believe that he studied runes without anyone’s knowledge just to carve those runes into a 200-pound rock for no other reason than to amuse himself. It is not a probable scenario, but it is not impossible either.

Both sides of the Kensington Runestone mystery are argued by both capable experts and laymen so it is difficult to tell which side is right without some glaringly obvious evidence. With an artifact/hoax like the Kensington Runestone, glaringly obvious evidence is not going to be found. You cannot date the markings on the stone. No one knows exactly where it was found. The runes have been interpreted a number of different ways. There just is not anything to prove it conclusively. If only text could be found elsewhere discussing these men in Minnesota, then we may be able to lay this mystery to rest.

The Story of the Kensington Runestone, retrieved 10/10/10.
The Kensington Runestone, retrieved 10/10/10.

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Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).

Historic Mysteries