Heavener Runestone: authentic or BS?

We just returned from a lovely camping trip to eastern Oklahoma. During one of the rainy days, we went exploring and found the Heavener Runestone State Park. According to the helpful signs, the runestone is a written record left by the Vikings who explored the area in pre-Columbian times.

Expecting something exciting, say along the lines of the Rosetta Stone, I was disappointed to find that the Heavener Runestone contains only a few cryptic X’s scratched into a rock which an “expert” in ancient Scandanavian languages has interpreted to say “Grom’s Valley”. (I could be wrong about the Grom part, but it was some supposedly old Scandanavian name.)

The information center also had a map showing how Vikings could have accessed the area by going up the Mississippi River, then this river and that, etc., until finally landing three miles from the place where the Runestone stands. They also had an illustration to show how a Viking longboat might be modified to navigate shallow rivers.

Although I have no problem believing that Vikings could have reached the New World long before Columbus, I’m extremely skeptical that they would have wound up in Heavener, Oklahoma. Does anyone have any information on this?

After a quick search this is the best image of the stone that I could find, and it is from a post card. http://www.frontiernet.net/~famfive/backgrnd/HEAV10.GIF

It appears to be a large flat stone with only one small line of writing. My first impression would be that anybody could have carved the images. I’ll have to do a little more research into Runes before I can make even an educated guess.

Also, I didn’t find anything in my search that indicated that any archaeological work had been done at the site. It would be interesting to see if there is any evidence of occupation from the appropriate time period. Even if there is, are there any artifacts that can be linked directly to Vikings?

Well, golly, this is just the most FRUSTRATING thing. You know how it is when you read it in a book (several books, in fact) but it isn’t on the WEB, so you can’t find a LINK?

I’ve read several books in the past, concerning pre-Columbian visitors to the Americas. The established archaeological theory is that yes, the Vikings made it to L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland (Nova Scotia?), but NOT to Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kentucky, North Dakota, and any of the other of a couple dozen places where people claim to have found Norse “runes” and/or “statues” and/or “towers”. Some of these things HAVE been investigated by serious archaeologists, and have been debunked. I’m really sorry that I can’t remember whether the Heavener Runestone was among them, but my instincts tell me that it probably was.

And the worst thing is, all the Heavener Runestone hits that Google brought me (at least the first 2 pages) were posted by the Believers. It stands to reason, I guess, that the people with the axes to grind are going to be the ones to post the Holy Writ. I even tried “Heavener Runestone fake” and came up with several hits from Believers saying, “Yah, THIS bad guy tried to prove it was a fake, but WE know better.”

Nothing came up on the Skeptical Inquirer site. Bummer.

Ducky: Sure the Vikings made it to Minnesota. They just didn’t make it to the Superbowl.

I’m fairly sure that I’ve read somewhere (Skeptical Inquirer?) that this thing is almost certainly a hoax (if it’s the runestone I’m thinking of), but I’m also pretty sure that was before the days of the Web. I don’t think they have an online index pre-dating the Web. :frowning:

Well, I did find an online subject index (by somebody other than CSICOP), but nothing on the name of the stone you gave. I found the following entry for runes, which refers to the British skeptical journal:

Skeptic 11.1:8 Runes, Vikings, and the New Age

But that doesn’t say if it’s definitely a runestone or not. And they don’t seem to have any of their articles online. I could have read about it there since I do see other newsletters and magazines, but I don’t think so.

It’s possible that I read about it in Skeptic magazine, which is not included in this index.

I, too, have stared at the Heavener Runestone and wondered if it was a fake. There are several other much smaller runestone that have been discovered in the area but they could be faked much easier than the Heavener Runestone. Local legend says that the Choctaw knew of its existence from the 1830’s. The son of an early American settler stated that his father visited it before 1874. The earliest recorded eyewitness was in 1894.
It is a large slab of sandstone that has fallen into a large ravine that cuts into the sandstone strata. A nice little waterfall falls into the ravine. A very pretty location. The stone, 12 feet high, 10 feet wide and 16 inches thick is almost vertical. There are 8 runes, 6 to 9 inches in height and 1/4 to 3/16 inches deep.
The carved runes are smooth and worn by weathering. Since the stone is in a sheltered area and its vertical orientation would reduce frost damage, an analysis of weathering rates on the sandstone, the Savanna Sandstone, should give a upper age on the carving. Microscopic analysis should give an indication if the stone had been polished to simulate weathering. I do not know if any of this has been attempted.
What has been done is a variety of interpretations of the 8 runes. The latest, most current interpretation is that the letters are in Elder Futhark. (Even I can see that all the runes except the second are identifiable Futhark runes.) The translations have been all over the place. Some even state that the runes are a date (11 November, 1012). The latest version is “Valley owned by Glome”. Two other local runestones, which are in a local museum (or at least their replicas are), are translated as “Magic (or protection) to Gloi” and “Medok”, a proper name.
On my first visit, I skeptically asked the state park ranger how valid the Viking interpretation could be (give me a break, you are in Oklahoma of all places). He mentioned that farther west along the Arkansas River there are Indian petroglyphs showing Viking style sailing vessels. However, the petroglyphs are on private land and are not available for study. Interesting if true.
Going up the Mississippi, your first major left turn is the Red River. However, The Red River had an enormous log jam around Shreveport when the Europeans first arrived. This blocked any upstream navigation on the Red. The next left turn is the Arkansas River which approaches within 25 miles of Heavener. Navigible streams get you even closer. Perhaps coincidentally, the closest point on the Arkansas River to Heavener, is Spiro, the site of a major Mississippian mound city, dated 850 AD to 1450 AD.
I find it appealing that Vikings sailed all along the coast of North America in their ocean going knarrs, built a coastal “dragon” ship and rowed up the Mississippi into middle of the continent. It probably is not true. However, there is a big piece of evidence there. PROVE that it is a fake (weathering rates, polish marks etc.) Knee jerk skepticism puts you in the same place as Fundamentalists (if it is not in the Bible it is not true ~= if somebody wrote about it in the Skeptical Enquirer it is not true).

A small factoid drifting around in my head says that the Minnesota runestone that someone supposedly turned up while plowing a field in the 1890’s was definitely proven to be a fake a while back, created by someone who was familiar with Norse runes.

Also, that there’s a certain amount of racism demonstrated by the people who maintain that certain “towers” HAD to have been created by the Vikings, because those were the only Anglo-Saxons to have come to America before Columbus, and good heavens, INDIANS couldn’t have built anything like that, could they? :rolleyes:

You may be right, Duck. I may have confused my runestones. I hate it when that happens!

The runestone in Minnesota is the Kensington Runestone:

“8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on a voyage of discovery from Vinland westward. We had our camp by two skerries one day’s journey north of this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from evil. We have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships. 14 day’s journey from their island. Year 1362.”

The word for “voyage of discovery” is anachronistic and apparently that is only one of 50 flaws that “would be sufficient to classify the inscription as a fake.” All school children in Norway and Sweden learned runes as part of their cultural heritage during the period 1870-1900. The finger of suspicion points to a local named Sven Fogelblad who grew up in Sweden, went to Univ of Upsala, was buddies with a noted runic scholar in Sweden and was buddies with the discoverer, Olaf Ohman. (The words “oh” for island and “man” for near used on the stone are also anachronistic.)

The tower you mention is probably the one at Newport, Rhode Island. The Newport Tower has also been debunked by competent authorities. It was built by Benedict Arnold (not THE Benedict Arnold) in 1675, and referred to in his will as “my stone built wind mill”. Around the foundation are nothing but English colonial artifacts.

It would be easier to believe the Heavener Runestone is authentic if any other sort of evidence was found near there in addition to the few scratches on the rock. The remains of a Viking ship, perhaps, or a tool, or one of those cool helmets with the horns on them.

If any other evidence of Vikings had been found, I’m sure the pro-runestone people would have pointed this out on their informative signs. As it stands, we have just the scratches to go by. As the Runestone is about the only tourist-y attraction in the area (which is a beautiful place but the main impetus for the economy appears to be the Tote-A-Poke convenience store), I wonder if people there would be open to a real scientific investigation. I doubt anyone would be happy to risk proving the stone to be a fake.

If any scientific study has been done (the weathering rates and polish marks, etc.) there is no mention of it at the park. The posted information merely gives this expert’s opinion that the stone is authentic, without any really tangible evidence to support the claim. This leads me to believe that either a.no such studies have been done, maybe because people don’t want to prove it’s fake, or b.studies have been done but the results were kept quiet because they prove the stone is a fake. Now I’m getting paranoid.

Sure, it’s possible that Vikings explored Oklahoma. It would be cool if it were true. I’m not going to believe it just because it’s a nice story, though. In my opinion, knee-jerk skepticism is preferable to knee-jerk faith.

Sure they did - they just lost every time. They were the Buffalo Bills (should have played Flutie against Tennessee and erased those losses) of the '70s.

Only Fundies/Okies could be so gullible that they would build a State Park around a rock with a couple of phoney 'x’es scratched in it.

But,what can you expect from people whose entire cultural contribution to the United States is religious intolerance & wheat?

I meant this year, Fleet.

As a thirty-year Rams fan whose ship FINALLY came in, I hope you will indulge me my glib, flippant wisecracks about other football teams.

I have not been able to do any more research on this Rune Stone, but I have been thinking about it. Odds are that it is a fake, in that it is highly unlikely that the Vikings ever made it to Oklahoma. That does not mean that the indians who were living in Oklahoma were ignorant as to who the Vikings were.

Most people are ready to accept that the Vikings were more than likely the first europeans to reach the new world. While they never established any long lasting settlements, do we know about their contact with the indians? Word of a brief encounter with a new tribe with magic (different technology) would probably spread with trade.

Now think about what happened to the Aztecs and the Incas. Why did they basically fold against the vastly out numbered Spanish? They had their “legend” of Viracocha. They were supposedly expecting the arrival of bearded white men who were given god like attributes. It is possible that thier idea of Viracocha could have come to them as tales of the Vikings.

Granted, this is all nothing more than speculation but it seems valid and a reasonable eplanation as to why Viking symbols ended up in Oklahoma. I may have to get to a library…

Except skepticism here isn’t being used by its proper definition of suspending judgement until there is proper evidence for one way or another, its just following the SI/CSICOP radical rationalist party line. Here’s a crazy idea, think for yourself and make your own judgements. Especially considering CSICOP’s tarnished history. Lots of info in the Heavener Stone here, read up:

A shortened link

**note: I shortened the above link to prevent screen-scroll. -manhattan

Good point HorseloverFat. Neither mindless gullibility nor David B.-like skepticism is likely to lead to the truth on any subject. I like the saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” If somebody proposes something way off the mainstream, the burden is on them to prove it. An educated person can usually quickly perform the sniff test to determine if it is BS or not.

Heavner Runestone has native American dating to the 1830’s and There are also runic script writing on Turkey mountain in Tulsa Ok. But lets say it was a fake from the 1930’s how did they know how to write the runic scripts did they run home jump on the internet and print them off. Heavner Kennsington and other stones are real. Why not just look at spiro and all the viking relics that came from that Viking settlement. So please if you haven’t seen it then don’t comment. Old norse saying better to be silent and let people think your dumb then open your mouth and remove all doubt.

As noted above, the runes on the stone have been identified as Elder Futhark, a writing system that became obsolete in the AD 700s. Viking explorations across the North Atlantic didn’t begin until the late 900s. Please explain why the Norse who visited Oklahoma chose to use a script that had died out a couple of centuries earlier. While you’re at it, explain why the Vikings would have been so far from a major river system, since they typically followed watercourses in their explorations.

The supposed record of the runestone in the 1830s is based on hearsay, which is highly unreliable. The Heavener Runestone and the other carvings in the area are far more likely to have been made by Scandinavian settlers in the area.

Wise advice, which you should take to heart.:wink:

Before the internet there was this odd source of information called a “bok”, or is it “book”, I forget. It’s well known to have been a way early 20th century Scandinavians in the US could look up runes though. And unlike 13 years ago, when this thread was last active, these days we can look up the Heavener Runestone on wikipedia and wonder how silly you have to be to believe it’s a Viking era inscription. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavener_Runestone