– Do I think the Vikings did this? Yes, said Faith Rogers BBC.
She is a hands-on environmental science student and works as a volunteer at Heavener Runestone Park in the Ouachita Mountains in the eastern US state of Oklahoma.
Britain’s state broadcaster is visiting to see the park’s biggest attraction and what is being called one of “America’s greatest historical mysteries” – a rock with eight symbols.
According to the BBC, several people believe the inscriptions are runes, made by the Vikings around the year 1000. The theories are that the Vikings must have traveled up the Arkansas River and further into these remote forests in the state.
The late local historian Gloria Farley devoted much of her life to the search for the mystery stone in her home country.
The first known discovery of the stone was made in 1830 by a group of hunters. After that, the stone remained for years as Indian Rock – in Norwegian, indianer-steinen, as locals believed the inscriptions to have been made by Indians.
As a young girl in 1928, Farley saw the stone with her own eyes for the first time and was fascinated, writes the BBC.
– Farley has spent most of his adult life searching for the stone, says Amanda Garcia, General Manager of Heavener Runestone Park.
According to Garcia, Farley traveled throughout the United States, as well as Egypt, to examine various inscriptions.
She also contacted the Smithsonian Museum for their evaluation of the inscriptions. However, it turned out that the museum had already analyzed the stone in 1923 and concluded that the characters came from a Scandinavian language and stood for “GNOMEDAL”.
– Improbable disappearance
According to the BBC, during his career, Farley had contact with several Viking historians, geologists and symbol experts, and gradually gathered evidence that the Vikings could have traveled up the river.
Farley believed that the Viking route to Oklahoma might have gone from southern Newfoundland, where the Vikings are known to have been, further along the coast to the east, around the tip of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico and further into the Mississippi. River, which again flows into the Arkansas River, writes the BBC.
However, Farley’s claims are disputed among historians and not well received by, among others, historian and author Kim Hjardar, who has written several books on the Viking Age.
– Nothing is impossible in this world, but the probability that the Vikings came so far south is very small, he said to Dagbladet.
Nor are there any accounts of such travels, adds Hjardar.
Eirik Raude’s saga mentions Leiv Eiriksson’s discovery of present-day Canada, then called Vinland, but it’s assumed that the Vikings explored here for a short time towards the end of the Viking Age, says Hjardar.
– Swedish emigrant
Other alleged runestones have also attracted attention in the United States. Especially the stone found in Kensington, Minnesota.
– This runestone kind of started the idea that the Vikings could have been there, but that was refuted. It was probably a Swedish immigrant who did this.
On several of the other alleged runestones found in the United States, the runes have been identified as being, among other things, Swedish Dal runes or pre-Viking age runes. It was probably a popular pastime for Swedish immigrants to make them. They are also dated to have been made around the 14th century, which is not the Viking Age, Hjardar points out.
– It was probably important for Scandinavian immigrants to distance themselves from Christopher Columbus who discovered America. Nor are there any other finds made in the areas that indicate there were Vikings there, he says.
– At the bottom of the list
In areas near Heavener Runestone Park, other stones have also been found which are known to be modern constructions, says Hjardar.
– So it is much more likely that this stone is also there, that it is Vikings. That it comes from the Viking Age comes pretty far down the list.
According to the historian, it has not been proven that the Vikings were further south than Lans Aux Meadows in the Canadian province of Newfoundland.
– The sagas talk a lot about people doing day trips, so maybe they went down to the Boston area. But the problem is that these places are prone to erosion and extremely dense settlements, so even if you went looking, it would be very difficult to find remains in these areas, says Hjardar.
In the state of Maine, however, a coin was found, dated to the late 11th century. Therefore, it is known that there was some form of contact between Greenland and parts of North America until the Viking Age.
– A lot of Americans really wish the Vikings had been there a lot more. There are also theories that the Vikings reached the west coast, where old stone mills attributed to the Vikings have been discovered. But we know the Vikings didn’t build such things, says Hjardar and adds:
– Some discoveries were made about the Vikings in America, but beyond that – nothing. It’s probably more the result of a desire to connect with Viking history. It’s a fascinating story and represents many of the values that Americans see in the settlers who, among other places, populated the Wild West, so maybe they’ll find a parallel there that they want to cultivate.
Viking Age or not, people from all over the world come to Heavener Runestone Park to experience the attraction.
– We had a visit from a man from Austria, and his only reason for traveling to the United States was to see the runestone, chief executive Garcia told the BBC.
– When I started here five years ago, we had around 400 visitors a month. Now we have the same thing this week. It depends on the time of year, but we can have up to 2,000 visitors or more on a typical weekend.
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