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Kensington Runestone Goes to Sweden Volume 57 Number 1, January/February 2004
by Kristin M. Romey

[image]The disputed Kensington Runestone is prepared for its trip from Alexandria, Minnesota, to the National Historical Museum in Stockholm. (Courtesy Runestone Museum, Minnesota) [LARGER IMAGE]

One of America's most notorious "artifacts," whose authenticity has been in dispute since it was discovered by a Minnesota farmer in 1898, has gone on display at Sweden's National Historical Museum.

The Kensington Runestone, supposedly an account of fourteenth-century Norse explorers in America, was shipped overseas from the private Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota, in late fall for an exhibition entitled "The Riddle of the Kensington Runestone."

At the opening of the exhibit, in a ceremony attended by more than seven-hundred guests and dignitaries, American ambassador to Sweden Charles Heimbold conceded that the runestone may be a forgery, a "strange, early Swedish-American practical joke" that nonetheless served as a symbol of the enduring ties between the United States and Scandinavia. The runestone has generated enormous interest in Sweden, where it has been the subject of more than 120 articles, and museum attendance records were broken in the first week of the exhibit, which runs until January. Lars Westman, the journalist whose article on the runestone for the Swedish publication Vi inspired the exhibition, has jokingly suggested that "perhaps time has arrived" for the restitution of the stone to Sweden, along with the remains of Olof Ohman, the farmer who discovered it while clearing stumps on his farmland over a century ago.

Ohman died in disgrace after accusations of forging the inscription. Swedish scientists will replicate recent physical tests that Runestone advocates say indicate the inscription is at least 200 years old--meaning it was created before the arrival of Scandinavian immigrants in the Midwest.

Greenland and Ohman's native region of Helsingland in Sweden have also expressed interest in exhibiting the stone or a replica of it, according to LuAnn Patton, director of the Runestone Museum, which will receive Viking artifacts on loan from the National Historical Museum to display this spring.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America