A number of runestones have been found in Oklahoma. All of them are likely of modern origin, with some of them possibly dating to the 19th century "Viking revival" or being produced by 19th-century Scandinavian settlers.
The oldest find is the "Heavener Runestone," first documented in 1923. It is the most credible candidate as being of medieval date, but it is most likely a 19th-century artifact made by a Scandinavian immigrant (possibly a Swede working at the local train depot). Two other "Heavener Runestones" are most likely not runic at all but exhibit incisions of Native American origin. Three other runestones, found in Poteau, Shawnee and Pawnee, are of modern date.
The runes on the stone are ᚷᛆᛟᛗᛖᛞᚨᛐ. Most of these characters belong to the Elder Futhark , but the final "L" is reversed compared with the last "A", and the second character is a short-twig "A" from the Younger Futhark. The transcription is then gaomedal, but is generally thought that the intention is that the second character should be an elder futhark "N" (also reversed). The inscription then reads gnomedal (either "gnome valley", or a personal name "G. Nomedal").
Archaeologist Ken Feder notes that unlike the situation in eastern Canada where evidence has been found that proves a Norse presence, nothing similar has been found anywhere near Heavener or even in the American Midwest. He suggests that "It is unlikely that the Norse would get significantly more fastidious about leaving any evidence behind of their presence in Oklahoma."
Archaeologist Lyle Tompsen in a 2007 Masters Thesis for the University of Leicester (published in ESOP 29 2011:5-43) examined the runestone and noted:
- There is no cultural evidence of Vikings in or near the region.
- No Old Norse approach to translation fits this stone.
- The stone's most likely translation is 'Gnome Dal' (Valley of the Gnomes).
- Scandinavian presence in the nearby town of Heavener is early and the likeliest source of the carving of the stone.
- Other purported rune stones in the region are modern creations, or misinterpreted Native American rock art.
"Barring any new evidence, the stone is best considered a modern creation."
Henrik Williams, professor in Nordic languages at University of Uppsala, visited Oklahoma in 2015 as part of a tour sponsored by the American Association for Runic Studies in collaboration with Uppsala University and the American Friends of Uppsala University. In a speech to the Poteau Chamber of Commerce he said that the Heavener stone "Is probably in the top 20 I’ve seen in the world, just for the sheer size and impressive nature of it.” He said that it was probably 19th century with a 20% probability of it being 10th or 11th century. “All words have endings, back 1,000 and 500 years ago, and that is one thing we find disturbing,” Williams said of the nonconforming ending on the Heavener Runestone. “None of the American inscriptions ever found have any kind of layout or ornamentation. That’s another thing that doesn’t really fit the pattern.” He also noted that "There are no Vikings or earlier inscriptions on Iceland or Greenland, so it’s a big jump from Sweden to Heavener."
Tompsen also examined this stone, and writes that it is carved into sandstone and is 15 inches long and shows little weathering. They read ᚷᛆᛟᛁᛖᚨᛚᚦ and Thompsen writes "This stone consists of a mixture of letters and alphabets from different times." He transcribes these as GLOIEA(?)(?).
Of the eight letters, five are Elder Futhark, one Younger Futhark. The other two he calls "spurious". He writes: " By excluding the last two letters as spurious, five are on the Heavener stone itself. The only one left is a straight line. To the author’s eyes, the Poteau Stone is a copy of the Heavener stone, with the addition of three spurious runic symbols as script-inflation."
Swedish Professor Henrik Williams believes that the inscription is modern, with the stone and toolmarks not as weathered as would be expected if it were from the Viking period.
Shawnee and Pawnee Stones
Professor Don G Wyckoff. an archaeologist at the University of Oklahoma, examined the Shawnee stone and noted that it is a soft red Permian sandstone, writing that "the inscription is... remarkably fresh and certainly not as worn or weathered as the stone's natural surface. The Survey staff has viewed other exposures of this Permian sandstone which have carved dates as late as 1957 that are more worn and weathered..." Both the Shawnee and Pawnee runestones are products of the modern period. The inscription reads either mldok or midok in standard Elder Futhark lettering.
- "The Heavener Runestone".
- Kenneth L. Feder, Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis To The Walam Olum, page 137 (Greenwood, 2010). ISBN 978-0-313-37919-2
- Tompsen, Lyle. "An Archaeologist Looks at the Oklahoma Runestones ESOP 29, 2011: 5-43 | Lyle Tompsen". Academia.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- Lovett, John (May 3, 2015). "Swedish Runologist Studies Heavener Runestone ‘For Truth’". Times Record. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Wallace, Josh (May 4, 2015). "Oklahoma runestone is impressive but not from Vikings, Swedish scholar says". NewsOK. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Wilson, Steve (1989). Oklahoma Treasures and Treasure Tales. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-8061-2174-2.
- Wyckoff, Don G, "No Stones Unturned:Differing Views of Oklahoma's Runestones" in Popular Archaeology, 2:16-31, no 12, 1973, reprinted in Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts, compiled by William R. Corliss, The Sourcebook Project, 1978, ISBN 0-915554-03-8
- Lyle Tompsen, An Archaeologist Examines The Oklahoma Rune Stones, Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers (ESOP) 29:2011.
- Nielson, Richard, The Runestones of Oklahoma, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications (ESOP), 16:1987.
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