Yesterday, I received an email from my recently retired acquaintance, John Parks, who lives in Texas and spends the summers with his wife and family in Wisconsin. After reading his email I called, and we visited for a good while. He relayed how he had read, yet again, in my most recent blog post a common theme of critics falsely claiming my geological investigation into the Kensington Rune Stone had not been academically peer reviewed. John said he would be happy to be a guest blogger to address his own peer review of my work performed roughly a year ago. John had long ago established himself as a more than competent geologist who would be fair, thorough, and impartial in his review. I’ll let John talk about the peer review in his own words and I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer any reasonable and thoughtful questions:
First, let me introduce myself, my name is John Parks. Back at the end of January, 2016 I was reading through one of Scott’s blogs when the subject of his work not coming under the peer review process was the subject of much discussion and some criticism. At that point I volunteered my services to Scott to be part of the independent peer review process for his work. At least as part of the work that involved geology was concerned.
several emails and phone conversations we concluded that I might be of some
assistance to the vetting process. Several months passed, but eventually, I had
the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis and meet Scott and his wife Janet. We
discussed several subjects of mutual interest including the
possibility of me reviewing some of his research. At that time, I inquired if
it could be possible to obtain the peer edited copies of the papers/research
documents that were reviewed. Scott agreed, but indicated that the documents
were in storage and could not retrieve them at that time. He said when he had
the chance to pull them from storage, he would email them to me.
Scott did just as he
had indicated and sent me copies of his original research papers as well as
copies of the peer reviewed copies with the comments by the various reviewers
on them. There was a total of nine peer reviews that Scott sent. Prior to
reviewing the comments by the reviewers, I read and reviewed the two papers
that Scott asked me to evaluate. It was only after I had completed my review of
the papers that I then read the other reviewers’ comments.
The five paragraphs in
quotes were included in the summary of the review that I sent to Scott. It is
not the detailed review that I did. That was sent as a separate attachment to
1. “Generally, the description of your analysis
of the KRS covered the major points that needed to be addressed as to the
physical characteristics of the KRS. Very good review. Your methodology of
beginning with a macro description of the KRS and progressing through medium-scale
elements of the stone, finally ending with finer-scale details at the mineral-
and elemental-levels gives the reader a through summary of the details of the
KRS and how you came to your conclusions.
2. “I thought that the analysis of the diagenesis
of the minerology (micas) in the KRS was the strongest portion of your analysis
of the KRS. It was based on well-documented, technical support, such as the
numerous SEM photomicrographs that were utilized. The comparison of the
weathering characteristics of the KRS and the tombstones added support to your
hypothesis that the KRS carving was likely not a modern (1898)
3. “The figures in the copy of the report that I
received were sometimes fuzzy and difficult to view the items being discussed
in the captions. This may have been a poor copy of the original, not sure. As
noted in my review of the paper, if you add more arrows (larger and/or more
obvious) pointing to the objects being discussed in the text or captions, it
would add to the reader's understanding what the text is describing.
4. “In the text, on a couple of points relating
to the runes themselves, you mention the possible intent of the KRS carver.
While the statements may, in fact, describe the intent of the carver, they are
conjecture and there does not appear to be enough physical evidence to support
the interpretation (e.g. p4, point 5 – the tapering of the KRS for that end to
be put into the ground and p28 referring to the same idea).
5. “This is a good paper and gives the reader a balanced
view of the physical description of the KRS. As well as support for the
conclusions concerning the age of the carving of the runes.”
I hope that this
addition of at least one reviewer’s general evaluation of Scott’s analysis of
the geologic aspects of the KRS to the exchange of views contained within this
blog might lead to some possible clarification of the peer review process that
has been carried out on Scott’s analysis of the geology of the KRS.
For those that are not
aware of my academic and professional background I include below. This is an
update to a portion of a reply on this blog from January 2016.
I shall begin with a
little background about myself which would be in order, then, as well as at
this time. I, like Scott, am a geologist and scientist. I received a MS Degree
in Geology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, where I worked
at the McCarthy Seismology Lab as a Research Assistant. Additionally, much of
my graduate work was also spent in structural geology and igneous &
metamorphic petrography. I studied at the Duke University Marine Geophysical
Lab where I did my research for my MS thesis. Additionally, I taught for 3
years at Austin Peay State University as an Instructor of Geology. I did field
research on aspects of geomorphology (co-authored several publications). My
undergraduate degree was in Art with majors in Art History & Painting. I
have retired after spending over 35 years at ExxonMobil in exploration and
production geology and geophysics. While at ExxonMobil, in addition to my
duties as Technical Team Lead and Supervisor, I taught classes in advanced
stratigraphic concepts, as well as regional and field development geology.
While this is not a
double-blind review (meaning that both the reviewer and the author identities
are concealed from the reviewers, and vice versa throughout the review
process), as some readers had mentioned should have occurred, my analysis of
the papers were still an unbiased review. Both positive and negative comments
were given. I did not agree with all that Scott indicated in the papers, but
the science behind the geology, especially the analysis
of the diagenesis of the minerology (micas) in the KRS, I considered to be the
strongest portion of his analysis of the KRS (from a geology standpoint). I
made no evaluations on the runes themselves from a linguistic standpoint (of
which I am not qualified to comment on, other than in regard to weathering
The documents that Scott sent me to review were not the chapter on the geology (Chapter 2) of the KRS in KRS – Compelling New Evidence (KRS-CNE) specifically, but two separate evaluations that together did form the core of the geologic analysis of the KRS that did make up the chapter. As mentioned above, these documents were previously reviewed by nine other individuals. These individuals were familiar with the level and background of Scott’s investigative analysis on other geologic subjects.
As far as my review of these documents, I was concerned with
- The process of data collection - how the data was collected and under what conditions.
- Were there data collected that would indicate or preclude that the KRS inscriptions were carved in the late 19th century.
- The collection of base-line data for comparative analysis dealing with the weathering processes and characteristics of known-age samples. And do the base-line samples have a bearing on the age of the inscription?
- The characteristics and morphology of the KRS in both the non-carved surfaces, in comparison to the carved runes, and the evaluation of the similarities and differences.
- The geologic provenance of the KRS (essentially meaning where did the rock originate).
- What were the conclusions derived from the data collection and analysis consistent?
The petrographic report (Pet Report SW 101203) began with a short summary of the unearthing of the KRS as reported by Olof Ohman. There was also a brief review of the initial analysis of the stone that occurred in the late 19thand early 20th century, as well as the conclusions of those investigators. This background information was later greatly expanded and added to in considerable detail in KRS-CNE. In my review I noted to Scott that at least three references should have been cited in this section, but were not. However, that oversight was remedied in the KRS-CNE when it was published three years later in 2006. These reference omissions related to work by Hjalmar R. Holand and George O. Curme.
The next section involved a general description of the KRS and its physical features. The six sides of the KRS were defined with accompanying photographs, such as the ‘Glacial Face Side’ with the first nine lines of the inscriptions. These were straightforward for the most part. However, on Side 5, named the ‘Glacial Bottom End’ Scott describes that side as “this end tapers sharply with a beveled edge that appears to have been intended to be put in the ground”. This point was outside the bounds of a description of the physical characteristics and crossing into the area of interpretation and speculation as to the intent of the carver. As mentioned in the summary at the beginning of this blog (see above point 4), while the statement may, in fact, describe the intent of the carver, the interpretation is conjecture and there does not appear to be enough physical evidence to support the interpretation. [see p. 16, KRS-CNE].
Throughout the Pet Report SW 101203, as well as the other report I reviewed (KRS 3D Report 2-20-11), I noted numerous places in which Scott was describing various physical characteristics of the KRS. Both at the macroscopic, as well as at the microscopic level utilizing photographs. In some of the cases the feature being described would be clearly identified and labeled in the photograph. An example of this helpful process of assisting the reader in understanding what is being describer can be seen as the arrows on the photograph pointing to the six indentations along the edge of the ‘Glacial Side’. [see p. 21, fig. 16, KRS-CNE].
However, this was not done in all photographs. Two examples where this non-labeling process occurred can also be seen in the KRS-CNE. The first is the figure description at the macroscopic level of “three dark gray vertical lines on the side are weathered joint fractures.” [see p. 15, fig. 2, KRS-CNE].
The other is at the microscopic level of an SEM image showing “numerous bladed-shaped biotite and muscovite mica minerals”. [see p. 37, fig.36, KRS-CNE].
Labeling of the mica minerals on this figure, as in other unlabeled items being discussed in other portions of the papers, would have helped the reader avoid any misunderstanding of what was being described. To a geologist, a mica mineral surface is obvious. To a non-geologist it may not be so apparent.
I should mention at this point that references to pages or figures in the KRS-CNE are included here as examples. The images shown here, or referenced, were also contained in the reports that were reviewed. For those that have copies of the KRS-CNE, it should assist the present readers in following along with this recap of some of the features of the reviews I undertook without the readers having the reports themselves (Pet Report SW 101203 and KRS 3D Report 2-20-11.
The physical characteristics of the varying sides of the KRS were discussed. Variations in the appearance of the surfaces were dealt with, as well as potential source processes for the origins of those features. An example of this included a discussion of the thin (1-2 mm thick), tan-to-white triangular-shaped area in the lower left portion of the ‘Glacial Face Side’. [see p. 17, fig. 7, KRS-CNE].
This is the surface where the majority of runes are located. Scott mentions that is surface is composed of a course-grained crystalline calcite (CaCO3) and that the most likely source for the origin of this deposit is that calcite, in solution, traveled along fractures (joint system), which was parallel to the ‘Glacial Face Side’ of the KRS and deposited in the joint space. Essentially, this is hydrothermal calcite. Possibly in placed during the low-grade metamorphism that the KRS parent rock experienced. Also identified were elongate chlorite [(Mg, Fe, Al)6 (Al, Si)4 O10 (OH)8] crystals contained within the layer of calcite which exhibit, parallel to the long axis of the KRS, a preferred orientation.
The recognition of the characteristics of this hydrothermal calcite is significant because several of the runes are carved in the material. Scott described the calcite layer in regards to its relative hardness (Mohs hardness scale), of which it is much softer than the host meta-graywacke rock. It was noted in a microscopic examination utilizing reflected light exposed little difference the textural characteristics and the apparent weathering within the runes and the region adjacent to the carving. At the end of the evaluation it was noted that “Further study of the weathering of the characters within the calcite area might yield additional information about the relative age of the inscription. We have not pursued further analysis at this time sue to the reluctance of the current need for invasive test sampling within this area.”
Two points to make concerning the Scott’s comments are in order. First, a reevaluation of the calcite deposit brought an observation to light that was not initially evident, in that no apparent weathering boundary or ground line was able to be identified. This observation may bring into question whether the KRS was upright for any amount of time. This last statement was included in the KRS-CNE p. 17. It does indicate that Scott continued his evaluation of the KRS during the three years from the initial investigations to the publishing of the KRS-CNE. Second, is his statement for the resistance for “invasive test sampling”. This indicates the hesitancy to run destructive tests that would compromise the integrity of the artifact.
The geologic provenance of the KRS (where and under what conditions the stone originated) was a first order question that was addressed in the papers. Scott observed striations (scratches or gouges) that occurred only on the ‘Glacial Back Side’ surface. The circle in the middle-upper portion of the image is the core hole. [see KRS-CNE p. 19, fig 10].
These striations ran roughly parallel to the long axis of the KRS. He interpreted that the KRS was part of the bedrock with the ‘Glacial Back Side’ being the top of the bedrock surface. The remaining sides of the KRS remained in situ as part of the bedrock. He reasoned that these striations developed as the glacier moved across the bedrock digging into the underlying bedrock. Subsequent to the striations being formed at the base of the glacier, the KRS became dislodged and was plucked from the bedrock and became incorporated in the advancing ice. The KRS was then carried away from the parent rock to be eventually deposited as the glacier melted approximately 12,000 ybp (years before present). The lack of striations on the other surfaces for the KRS was reasoned to be due the nearly abrasion-free transport mechanism of being imbedding within the ice. The interpretation of the morphology of the surfaces is consistent with the known processes of glacial erosion and transport.
As part of the analysis of the KRS a single core sample was taken from the ‘Glacial Back Side’. The core measured 33 mm (1 ¼”) diameter by 50 mm (2”) long. The core site was selected to
1. Avoid damaging the runes,
2. Obtain a sample of the stone to determine the mineral composition of the stone and,
3. Provide rock for thin-section analysis and additional studies of the weathered surface.
The area cored included a branching portion of one of a pair of white lineations and a likely joint fracture. [see Pet Report SW 101203, p. 30, fig. 35].
The top 13 mm (1/2”) was cut off of the core. This newly cut portion was then cut perpendicular to the top surface and perpendicular to the white lineation. Cutting of the core this way created a cross-sectional view of the white lineation which allowed the physical characteristics of the lineation to be observed. [see KRS-CNE p. 30, fig. 27].
The analysis of the whitened color was interpreted to be the result of chemical leaching of the magnesium and iron elements from the biotite minerals that are present in the stone. This analysis supports the interpretation that the two white lineations were produced from contact with a root system. Additionally, the interpretation that the organic-based origin of the lineations suggesting “prolonged contact in the ground with tree roots” [Pet Report SW 101203, p. 33] is consistent with the data. However, the term “prolonged” is not defined.
The differences between the descriptions of several witnesses of the size of the tree roots that were attached to the ‘Glacial Back Side’, approximately 76 mm (3”) and the width of the white lineations measured in this study, 13 mm (1/2”) were addressed. The interpretation for the inconsistency of the two widths relates to the active ends of the immature roots trying to acquire nutrients during an early age in the root and the later stage when bark grows around the root, increasing in width with time. Based on published research [KRS-CNE p. 33], this interpretation seems justifiable.