Rune stones with etched inscriptions, dating from the Viking age, are found all over Scandinavia. No one has truly figured them out.
My Seattle father, Hans Pederson, a Danish immigrant, died when I was one month old. I soon left Seattle and have spent much of my life on the East coast of Maine. So with northern coastal lore in mind, I recently went to a talk on a local rune stone found 60 years ago near Popham Beach, now held in the Maine State Museum.
Geologist Scott Wolter described how linguistics, history, and geology have converged to allow an understanding of the mysterious symbols on these stones. While Scandinavian Vikings honored fallen warriors with stones, prevalent by 1100, several hundred years later, pagan inscriptions began to give way to Christian symbols by the Renaissance around 1400.
The first American runic stone was found under the roots of a toppled tree in Kensington Minnesota. Why Minnesota? Wolters book, with co-author Richard Nielsen, archeologist The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence provides a fascinating explanation of this mystery. A glacier moved the stone near the river that moved it—probably around 1362. European Knights Templar, the first North American pioneers, inscribed these stones. They settled in the Minnesota area to escape religious persecution. They would have predated Columbus or any other explorers.
Wolter’s talk boggled the mind as he presented his information in a rapid-fire staccato. Judging by the symbols on the rune stones near Popham Beach Maine, these stones probably date back to the Kensington Minnesota rune of 1362, not back to the Vikings 300 or 400 years earlier.
The scholarship is thorough and complex, and like most controversial ideas, threatens the status quo as well as other competing theories. Books on these topics are available on Amazon.
Critics continue to scoff. Many maintain that these “rune stones” were merely etched with random inscriptions by a bunch of hippies.