Monday, February 25, 2008

Okie Vikings

Official history takes a hit from Vikings in Oklahoma:
It sounds a little bit like the plot of a Hollywood movie starring Antonio Bandaras. But residents of Heavener maintain that around 900 A.D, Vikings paddled their longships down the Eastern Seaboard, around the tip of Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers and then traveled overland into Eastern Oklahoma – where they put up a billboard.

Okay, they may have built settlements and planted crops, but none of those things have been found. What has been found is a large flat stone – twelve feet high, ten feet wide, sixteen inches thick, rectangular in shape and sitting in a mountaintop ravine – with six-inch high Norse runes carved deeply into it.

Translations of the runes vary. Some people maintain that they're a date – November 11, 1012, while others say that they read “Glome's Valley,” as either a land claim or a kind of early Viking graffiti.

Whether Vikings actually were in Oklahoma, they came and left long ago. And the evidence that they were here might have lived on in obscurity if not for a few key events.

Flash forward in time to 1838, when thousands of Native Americans were forcibly moved from Tennessee into Eastern Oklahoma. The new arrivals noticed the stone, which became known as Indian Rock by European settlers – even though the carvings were not recognized by anyone as either Native or Latin writing.

In the 1920's a Heavener resident sent copies of the runes to the Smithsonian for identification. The Museum wrote back to say that the writing was Norse, but that it didn't make sense for Norsemen to have made them. In all likelihood, museum officials reasoned, a Scandinavian settler must have made the carvings by working from a primary school grammar book from his homeland.

As settlers moved into the area, they found more and more of these engraved stones. However most of them were destroyed by treasure hunters. The same fate might have befallen the runestone, if not for the efforts of Gloria Farley, a local school teacher.

Farley researched and wrote extensively about the stone. Through her efforts, the name of the stone was changed from Indian Rock to The Heavener Runestone, and the Heavener Runestone State park was established. Eventually, she found four more examples of Viking Runes carved into the Oklahoma landscape. Some of these are now on display in the Heavner Runestone State park.

So did Vikings settle in rural Eastern Oklahoma? Authorities in history say no. What is known however is that Norsemen did establish settlements in Newfoundland and similar stones with Runic writing have been found in Minnesota.
They are Viking runes, are they not?


And the rock is old enough that it could have been carved by Vikings, right?


But it wasn't carved by Vikings?


Can you explain why not?

No, just trust us. We tell you what really happened over a thousand years ago, and don't you dare believe anything different.


  1. Seems like I remember something about blue eyed mummies (?) found in caves around Tn and Ky. back in the day.

  2. Almost sounds like a plot point from Clive Cussler's "Treasure" altho that had a fleet of Roman ships caching the Great Library of Alexandria in Texas. Pity the Vikings couldn't have come up the Sabine River, between Texas and Louisiana.

  3. Following graduation I went to work and study Archaeological Field Methods in Mitchell, South Dakota, where we excavated a sit about 1,000 years +/- old that had been a village on a creek-bluff that overlooked what would have been cultivation fields.
    The given theory is that they were predecessors of the Mandan, simply because the later Mandan conveniently inhabited the same range...
    Basically they/we didn't know much of anything about the site's inhabitants except some obvious things and some geo-historical data.
    On the obvious side they built stockaded villages and houses within them, they cultivated, and they ate a lot of deer - and the place burnt down a couple times. On the geologic/historical side (aided by pollen-counts), they moved up from Missouri into an area that previously had been arid (again indicated by pollen-count at X-layer, etc.) but a fairly dramatic climate shift rendered it wet-enough to sustain crop growth. It lasted about 150-years? and then they disappeared. Vanished.
    Fortified stockade construction implies conflict with regionally nearby co-habitant "tribes" who saw resource-usages in profoundly different ways. In this case one side felt it was necessary to defend a static patch of cultivated land and a village lifestyle while other regional inhabitants probably dealt with resources very differently as mobile hunter-gatherers.
    The evidence of the village burning down (charred post-holes) and reconstruction on a slightly larger and altered plan/scale, indicates more than just fire-carelessness and could well be attributed to animosity and violent conflict with neighbors who well-knew how to set fires and drive game.
    Fire was a frequent danger on the Settler's prairie, caused by lightning strikes in the arid atmosphere - but this was densely wooded at the earlier time as evidenced by the large amount of timber necessarily cut-down to create the houses and the village walls.
    The villagers may have shared the work of de-forestation with naturally occurring wildfires, because when settlers arrived some 1,000 years later there were very-very few trees on the rolling grasslands, and place-names like Two-Trees were given as appropriate.
    It could have been Vikings??
    We know they traded things that originated with people on the Gulf at the mouth of the Mississippi, by shell-goods specific to that location that have been found. Certainly Vikings would have had conflicts with their "neighbors".
    Given the large quantity of animal debris (mostly deer in the large sized bits, but lots of rat and smaller rodent bits indicating a good-sized population of vermin) and the lesser number of garbage pits (a significant indicator of household density), we assumed the village had a pretty strong odor also.
    Anyhow....that's what little I know.