Saturday, June 4, 2016

Kensington Rune Stone: Theories Verses Facts

In the last couple of years there has a surge in the number of people with theories about the Kensington Rune Stone.  Some have been supportive of authenticity and some have not.  Recently, a KRS researcher and local attorney in Minneapolis, David O.N. Johnson, wrote comments on a blog addressing the recent surge in theories and if the "evidence" supporting these ideas would meet the criteria of admissibility in a court of law. 

Quoting Johnson,  "My head is spinning with the multitude of “theories” currently being advanced under the guise of “factual”. I don’t have any problem with advancing one’s theory, but I still expect that something resembling a fact needs to be advanced in order to give any valid theory some credence. After reading the latest pontifications, I fully expected the next “theory” to maintain that space aliens came down to rural Minnesota and zapped a piece of greywacke with its inscriptions. I guess they must have done so to trick all the Scandinavians of the area into believing it was real.

Anyway, I digress. The common theme being presented is that “evidence” exists, so the rest of us rubes should pay attention. Maybe I shouldn’t opine on a legal basis for factual material, but I am going to do so anyway. Most of these theories lack an evidential background. In legal forums evidence must be supported as factually based. What has been asserted with regard to Masons, Freemasons, Swedish Monks, various non-existent stones, documents, and self-serving statements. When questioned on the evidentiary basis, the most common response is silence or the common refrain “look it up on the internet”. The internet is not the original source material, thus in my opinion and as a legal practitioner, such “evidence” would have no value."

In the interest of full disclosure, Johnson is a supporter of the authenticity of the artifact, but his point about the veracity of the factual evidence required to support ANY theory is 100% correct.  This has been the primary argument behind my own research since I first laid eyes on the stone in July of 2000.  I've pontificated, ad nausea, about the process of scientific method, collection of factual data, interpretations based on those facts, and then drawing conclusions that will stand up to scrutiny in a court of law, under oath.  I'm sure I don't need to remind the regular readers of this blog about my three decades of operating a materials forensic laboratory performing what are essentially, autopsies on problem concrete and rock primarily in the construction industry.  I have testified, under oath, dozens of times to my scientific findings and conclusions related to these cases, and understand what meets the criteria of factual evidence as well as any lawyer trying these cases.

What I thought I'd do is encourage those with an opinion or theory about the Kensington Rune Stone, or any other related artifact or site, to present their ideas and let's see how it stands up.  I also encourage other researchers, be it from the professional or academic world, or from amateur researchers with questions about what constitutes factual evidence that meet acceptable criteria for acceptance in a legal case.  In the end, we all want a consensus on the authenticity of the artifact that the academic process for the past 118 years has been unable to produce.  Nearly everyone has an opinion about its authenticity, but do what they consider to be "facts" or "evidence" really meet the required standard to support their opinion?

One recent example of erroneous theory was offered by a geologist with a PhD.  One would assume such a seemingly educated person would understand how they needed the appropriate facts to support their theory, but it turns out they did not.  In this particular case, the person claimed the white calcite on the face side of the Kensington Rune Stone (and dozen or so runes carved into that area) would have dissolved away by exposure to acidic water if shallowly buried at Rune Stone Hill on the Ohman Farm.  To be fair, my understanding is this person has not been a practicing professional geologist for many years so their "rock" skills don't appear to be that sharp and they clearly do not understand the known geological facts relating to the artifact that pertain to this theory.  The glacial till where the Kensington Rune Stone was found is "limey" or has a higher than neutral pH (<7).  This would quickly neutralize any acidic solution produced by the decomposition of the organic material and not attack the calcite.  In fact, the relatively high pH conditions of the glacial till at Rune Stone Hill actually promotes the accumulation of secondary calcite as found on the bottom back end of the artifact.  How a trained geologist with a PhD could make such a mistake is unclear.  However, the obvious negative bias of this particular individual appears to have clouded their judgment.  Clouded judgment in all academic disciplines due to various forms of personal bias have dogged the Kensington Rune Stone research to this day.

There are many who have accused me of being biased and to a certain degree this is true.  I have been biased by the voluminous factual evidence primarily associated with the rock itself.  I have always trusted what the rock has to say, not the flawed logic and unsupported assertions by individuals driven by one form of personal bias or another.  I challenge readers to offer their specific theories, ideas, evidence, and facts and let's see if they hold up to scientific scrutiny.  They don't have to be related to the stone itself or geology, it can be about who carved the stone, Olof Ohman, or anything else related to the artifact.  Let's have some fun and see how you do!

The relatively coarse-grained, white, triangular-shaped calcite on the face side of the Kensington Rune Stone was deposited by hot hydrothermal solutions moving between fractures in the greywacke millions of years ago when the stone was still part of the bedrock. (Wolter, 2004)

The very fine-grained, white, calcite coatings on the bottom end of the back side of the Kensington Rune Stone were deposited by cool groundwater solutions when the artifact was within glacial till deposits after being deposited by glaciers roughly 10-12,000 years. (Wolter, 2000) 

This granite glacial erratic boulder was deposited at what is now the Ohman Farm near Kensington, Minnesota, by a mile-thick sheet of glacial ice roughly 10-12,000 years ago.  The limy glacial till deposits at the farm allowed relatively thick, white calcite coatings to develop on the surface of this and many other glacial boulders in the area including the Kensington Rune Stone. (Wolter, 2000)  

These three pages are from Newton H Winchell's 76-page report he submitted to the Museum Committee of the Minnesota Historical Society, in April of 1910, entitled, "Report on the Kensington Rune Stone."  On page 21 Winchell discusses his observations about the lack of weathering of the runes carved into the hydrothermal calcite on the face side and the secondary calcite on the bottom back end of the stone.  This led him to conclude the stone had to have been buried immediately after being carved because he also concluded the artifact was genuine.

Newton H. Winchell wrote his emphatic opinion on the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone in this letter dated December 15, 1909.
This broken tombstone in Maine was one of the important monuments sampled and examined for the relative-age dating work I performed on the Kensington Rune Stone.  Recently, a debunker inferred that I fabricated the 1815 death date of the individual marked by this monument.  It clearly states the infant son of Abner and Hannah Lowell died that year.  Since the name of the decedent isn't visible I used the name of his father for this monument sample who died many years later.   

This pile of glacial cobbles and boulders were cleared from the fields for farming by Olof Ohman and his sons and sits next to the small pond roughly 100 yards due west of the Discovery site of the Kensington Rune Stone.  I examined these stones for limestone and secondary calcite, with Darwin Ohman and Lloyd Flaaten, on June 15, 2016.

Very heavy secondary calcite deposits coat most of the surface on this glacial deposited granite cobble I found in the rock pile on the Ohman Farm.  Roughly one-third of rocks in the pile had various quantities of secondary calcite deposits exactly like the calcite deposits on the back side of the Kensington Rune Stone.   

Roughly 10% of the rocks in the pile were limestone and roughly one-third of the non-carbonate rocks had secondary calcite deposits like the granite cobble pictured here.  The presence of intact limestone and extensive, heavy secondary calcite deposits is consistent with high pH conditions in the soil that produced these features present on glacial erratic stones, and the Kensington Rune Stone, at the Ohman Farm.