Thursday, November 5, 2015

Narragansett Rune Stone Dedication Ceremony

The final resting place of the Narragansett Rune Stone in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, after it's unveiling at the dedication ceremony held on October 30, 2015.  A secured gazebo will be constructed to enclose the artifact in the spring of 2016. 

The interpretive signage that includes historical photos of the Narragansett Rune Stone.

Speaking on behalf of the nine elderly witnesses who signed written affidavits that helped preserve the integrity of the Narragansett Rune Stone, Peter Bruno gave an emotional and moving speech. 
As the final speaker I made sure to acknowledge the vital contributions of Detective Sheila Paquette, who tried unsuccessfully to hide in the crowd, and Steve DiMarzo, who helped preserve the integrity of the stone by finding the nine elderly witnesses who had seen the inscription as early as 1945 and having them all sign written affidavits. (Photo Courtesy of Tom Helmer)

This is a panoramic view of the Narragansett Rune Stone Dedication Ceremony held in North Kingstown on October 30, 2015.  (Photo courtesy of Tim Cranston)

It was a perfect October 30 day as an excited crowd gathered that would eventually swell to roughly 150 people.  Janet and I arrived a couple hours before the ceremony and found the Narragansett Rune Stone inscription right side up with the boulder it was inscribed on perched at a 45 degree angle and partially buried below-grade with fist-sized cobbles surrounding within the perimeter of a recently built wooden fence.  This certainly isn’t the final structure scheduled to be constructed to protect the inscription from weathering and secure it from vandalism.  That construction is planned for next spring, but as we stood looking at the tarp-covered boulder with new landscaping and fencing I could help feeling sense of relief and pride.  Through the efforts of many people, including nine brave now-elderly people who had signed written affidavits attesting to having seeing the inscription prior to 1963, when some clown claimed to have carved the inscription in hopes of seeing it dismissed, the historic day I had long hoped for had arrived. 

Familiar faces began to trickle in and we greeted them with smiles, handshakes and hugs.  Rick Lynch and David Brody were some of the first and we reminisced how far we had come since that Christmas Party in 2011, at the home of one the residents of the Pojack Point neighborhood where the stone was then located.  We were there to lobby support from the homeowners for their support in getting the stone out of the water and to a more secure location.  We knew that to have any chance of getting this done we needed the support of the local residents.  The words I spoke were barely out of my mouth when one of the residents angrily piped up and said, “That stone belongs to me.  I can do anything I want.  I could take it out of the water tomorrow.”  Right then, I knew were in trouble. 

When the three of us first received word the stone was missing about six months later, we all knew instantly who the prime suspect was.  It took about year for Detective Sheila Paquette and her colleagues to recover the stone that had been removed with heavy equipment by the angry neighbor.  It was returned and temporarily stored at a secure indoor facility belonging to the University of Rhode Island where it would reside for almost two years until it was moved to its final resting place.  It was in that secure facility that Janet, researcher Jerry Lutgen, and I first saw the artifact since it had been stolen.  It was also the first time I had a chance to examine the clean inscription without the having to brush away barnacles, seaweed and crabs crawling over it or having to wait for low tide to even see it.  At least twice in the past I tried in vain to closely examine it as waves lapped over the inscribed characters.  This visit in September of the 2014 was the one and only chance I’d have to carefully examine not just the inscription, but the entire boulder to get a better sense of the geological aspects and weathering which was more advanced than I originally thought.  It also gave Jerry a chance to test his RTI (Reflective Transformational Imaging) technology. 

As the garage door slammed shut after completing our three-hour time scouring the stone we knew the next time we’d see the stone was today.  After the speeches and glad-handing was over, I took one last look and noticed the three deep gouges made from the heavy equipment the neighbor used to remove the stone from the water.  On one hand they were a tragic reminder of the damage that has been done by arrogance and ignorance.  However, the fresh-looking gouges served as excellent control marks that by comparison, makes the inscription look as old and weathered as it is.  I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of how the three gouges were symbolic of the contrasting views of the controversy and how we should all look at them as an opportunity to make lemonade out of three big lemons.

Runologist's Conclusion about the Narragansett Rune Stone

I would also like to comment on a recent article published by Professor Henrik Williams, a runologist at Uppsala University in Sweden.  The paper can be read at the following link:

While Professor Williams is a very bright man and certainly an accomplished runologist, he seems to be out of his element when dealing with the five mysterious runic inscriptions discovered in North America that include the Hooked X symbol, because they do not fit the standard runic record of Scandinavia.  They are the Kensington Rune Stone, discovered in Minnesota in 1898, the three Spirit Pond Rune Stones, discovered together in Maine, in 1971, and the Narragansett Rune Stone first discovered in the early 1940s.  In this attached article on the Narragansett Rune Stone Williams concludes, "It seems likely that it was carved sometime between the 1890s and the 1940s."  This being based on the unsaid, but his apparent "belief" that the Hooked X symbol was copied from the Kensington Rune Stone and/or the Spirit Pond Rune Stones.  There is no factual evidence for this assertion and indeed there is evidence that refutes it. 

Williams' conclusion is both incorrect and irresponsible.  The truth is the professor is carrying on the century-plus long tradition of many "soft science" scholars, both in Scandinavia and in North America, of claiming the North America rune stones with the Hooked X are of modern origin.  While I applaud the professor for making the effort to personally examine these inscriptions, which linguists in the past have not bothered to do, the reality is he didn't need to travel to three states to see the artifacts because his area of expertise did not require it.  The physical state of the weathering of the inscriptions is not something he was required to evaluate to render an opinion on authenticity since he is not qualified to do so.  He could have stayed in his office and rendered the same erroneous conclusions by looking at photos of the inscriptions.  The irresponsible mistake that Williams and other "soft science" scholars continue to make is they believe their opinion-driven disciplines are the only ones that can answer the question about the authenticity of these artifacts.  Further, for over a century they have intentionally ignored the "hard" scientific evidence of geologists who have emphatically concluded the weathering of these inscriptions are centuries old.   

I have known Professor Williams for 13 years and have personally presented the details of both my own and other geologist's scientific work performed on these artifacts.  The facts are he has chosen to ignore these findings instead of working together to find the answers as to what the messages mean by figuring out who carved them, when, and why.  This behavior is simply the latest example of the way many scholars (not all) have treated hard scientists whose factually supported conclusions have been at odds with their beliefs.  This is not the way historical truth should be decided and it is not what the people who care about the truth about our history should accept.  Shame on Williams for issuing another horribly flawed, and factually unsupported opinion that it at odds with hard science.  The only way we are going to get the story straight is to demand certain scholars conduct themselves ethically and responsibly.  What he should have concluded based on the lack of evidence presented in his paper is what too many soft science scholars seem incapable of saying, "I don't know."  Logic dictates that if hard science data is generated that is conclusive about the age of weathering of inscriptions carved in stone, than there has to be an explanation that supports the conclusion that people of that time period were here and they carved the inscriptions with an intended message for others who could also understand them.  Scholars of all pertinent disciplines should work side by side to comb the historic records to unlock the keys that will shed light on these early visitors to North America.  I am confident that rapid progress could be made if only this collaborative effort could become a reality instead of the current ego posturing taking center stage.