The Kensington Runestone Hoax

Updated on April 24, 2017
The Kensington Runestone photographed in 1910
The Kensington Runestone photographed in 1910 | Source

The Kensington Runestone

Kensington is a small community in central Minnesota, which is well-known for having attracted relatively large numbers of immigrants from Scandinavia. However, a reported discovery in 1898 seemed to suggest that the area was home to Scandinavians centuries before the Minnesota Territory became a state in 1858.

In 1898 a farmer of Swedish extraction, named Olof Ohman, claimed to have found on his land a stone slab that was carved with an ancient inscription in runic lettering – runes are a type of alphabet that was once widely used in northern Europe, including by the ancient Vikings.

It was known that explorers from northern Europe had reached the North American continent about 500 years before Columbus set sail, but could they possibly have advanced as far as Minnesota? The runes on the stone slab seemed to suggest that this was possible.

The location of Kensington MN
The location of Kensington MN

The Message of the Runes

When translated, the inscription read as follows:

“Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on an exploration journey from Vinland to the west. We had camp by two skerries one day’s journey north from this stone. We were out [to] fish. One day after we came home [we] found 10 men red of blood and dead. AVM Save [us] from evil. [We] have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships 14 days’ travel from this island. [In the year] 1362.”

(A skerry is a small rocky island. AVM is an abbreviation for Ave Maria)

Quite Clearly a Fake

There are many reasons to suppose that the Kensington Runestone was a fake.

For one thing, one has to wonder why a group of explorers who had set up camp and lost some of their number to a raid (presumably by Native Americans) would have bothered to go to the trouble of carving a message on a stone which they clearly had every intention of leaving in place before heading back to their ships. Who did they expect would read it? And what would the purpose have been of leaving such a message?

On the other hand, a farmer with Scandinavian roots who was also a former stonemason might well have thought that this was a good way of establishing some sort of ancient claim to the territory for his fellow Scandinavians.

People who have examined the Runestone have been quick to point out that nobody writing in 1362 would have expressed themselves in the language used on the stone. It uses phrasing that was common among Swedes and Norwegians living in 19th century Minnesota but not 14th century Scandinavia.

The runes are a mixture of letters known to have been used in the 9th to 11th centuries, plus some homemade symbols. However, by the 14th century runes were only used for monumental and celebratory inscriptions, and not for general messages. On the other hand, they would not have used Arabic notation for the date.

Could a Scandinavian Expedition Have Taken Place?

When the Kensington Runestone was first “discovered” by Olof Ohman there were plenty of people who were perfectly happy to accept it as genuine. Many settlers from Europe were unhappy with the notion that they were usurpers in someone else’s land, and they therefore welcomed evidence of former settlement by people of the same genetic background as themselves.

However, there is no evidence that any such event as detailed on the stone could have happened. Mention is made of “Vinland”, this being an area – possibly in what is now the Canadian province of New Brunswick – that was settled very briefly by Viking explorers in the early 11th century. It was certainly not in Viking hands in the mid-14th century.

Various claims have been made for the authenticity of Viking “finds” on mainland North America, but none have been convincing. The only item that looks to be at all genuine is an 11th century Norwegian coin that was found at a Native American site in Maine. However, there is nothing to suggest that this could not have been “planted”.

The evidence all points to the fact that, although Scandinavians did reach the mainland of North America towards the end of the 10th century, they did not stay for long. They had little reason to settle, and did not do so.

A map that supposedly shows the location of Vinland, although this is almost certainly a fake.
A map that supposedly shows the location of Vinland, although this is almost certainly a fake.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)