Rune stone records Viking visit … in 1964

NORTH KINGSTOWN, Rhode Island — The fabled Narragansett Rune Stone, taken by some as proof of a Viking visit 600 to 1,000 years ago, is only 50 years old, according to the Providence man who claims he carved it.

Only the runes, of course. The stone itself is ancient, just about whatever age you’d expect a six-ton, 7- by 5-foot chunk of Rhode Island formation meta-sandstone to be. Every low tide for as long as anyone can remember, it poked out of the water not far from Pojac Point. If you wanted to sound like a native, you called it Quidnessett Rock.

But that’s giving a lot of syllables to a relatively unremarkable landmark. In fact, it’s really not clear if anyone called it anything before 1984. Then, as one story goes, a clam digger discovered mysterious carvings on the rock and, in a blink of geological time, it became Quidnessett Rock, the Narragansett Rune Stone, and the darling of the Vikings-in-New-England camp.

The carvings are inscribed runic characters. From the photos I’ve seen (such as the one below from Kayak777)  there are nine or ten.

Photo/Kayak777

Runic characters mean Vikings, as everyone knows. And currently the only solid evidence of a Viking presence in North America is the thousand-year-old remains of settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland—as archaeologists wish everyone knew. Some folks (Scott Wolter, for example, host of a History Channel program described as only a few steps above “Ancient Aliens”) held out hope that the Narragansett Rune Stone could become the second solid piece of evidence.

Runes were used to communicate, but these runes haven’t done much to shed light on their own mystery. One student of the rock sees the name of an Icelandic river. A recent “translation” reads like a real estate contract between God, the sun, and a boatload of Egyptian Norsemen from the Vatican. In a tiny mark on one of the runes, the History Channel guy sees the symbol of a Templars secret mission which seems to have involved telling everyone about their secret mission on various stones, perhaps just to be ironic.

Is it all that unlikely that Vikings splashed ashore somewhere along the Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts coast?

New England must have been a great place to live a thousand years ago. Even today it’s not too bad despite the traffic. So why is it unreasonable to think the Vikings couldn’t have planned a settlement here? Or at least take an occasional summer vacation on the Cape with a stop at Narragansett Bay for fresh corn?

In a word, Skraelings. Or Indians, for those of you who don’t have Google Translate.

Skraelings were without question the best argument for the Vikings to stay up in Newfoundland. The slim evidence that does exist shows that Skraelings kicked every Norse butt that ever came ashore. The Norse sagas say so. The archaeological evidence, or more specifically the lack of it, backs it up. I think the theory is sound. And so does Everett Brown.

And that’s why Brown chipped SKRAYLINGAE into a rock off Pojac Point back in the summer of 1964. Or tried to. He messed up some of the letters, inadvertently deepening the mystery when the carving was discovered some twenty years later.

“I was a 13-year-old boy that summer,” Brown told me in a phone call yesterday. Drawn to tales of adventure and the mighty sweep of history like many boys his age, he said, “I’d found out I had a Swedish background. I was very interested in the Vikings.”

He said he spent a lot of time out on the water, especially at a beach that was hard to get to except by boat. He remembered pulling up in an 18-foot Thompson—not a knorr by any stretch, but to a boy adventure came in many shapes. He remembered carrying his mother over the shallows between the boat and the beach.

“I felt like a Viking,” he said.

About that time, along with his epic discoveries along the Rhode Island shore, Brown discovered an abiding interest in language. He was fascinated by the languages of old England, Saxon in particular, and the obsolete alphabets of northern Europe. He also began to study Latin.

Curiosity about his heritage and old languages came together for young Brown in an unusual way that summer. He wrote some runes on a piece of paper and took it out to the rock near the beach. At low tide, he said, he took a sledge hammer and “one of my dad’s Craftsman nail punches or an awl, something pointy,” and, holding the hammer just below the steel head, carefully picked away at the rock.

That is, as carefully as a 13-year-old boy racing against the tide can be.

“I made a few mistakes,” Brown said. Referring to the falsely identified “hooked X” on the stone (he called it the “N”), he said a chip flew out, changing the character he was trying to create.

“And I used the character for the combined AE,” he said, accidentally giving an incongruous Latin plural to an Icelandic word. “As I said, I was familiar with Latin, but the funny thing was I was trying not to make it look Latin.”

Despite a spate of fanciful "translations," anyone with a basic chart of runes can read the simple word on Quidnesset Rock.

Despite a spate of fanciful “translations,” anyone with a basic chart of runes can read the simple word on Quidnessett Rock.

Brown is a well-informed, well-spoken man. Far from seeking publicity, he had made no attempt to contact the press or local TV about the rune stone. He didn’t seek me out; I contacted him out of the blue. He didn’t volunteer the story; I had to coax it out of him.  As I interviewed him I was struck not only by the casual detail of his account but also by the lack of ego behind his statements and the overall openness and honesty of his manner. Even to my cynical ears, his story rang true.

There are those who will beg to differ. There are people like Wolter who, putatively trained in science, none the less abandon their objectivity to chase moonbeams like Jesus’ bloodline. And there’s at least one woman who lived in the area in the ’50s who recalls something about a carved stone in the water. Memory isn’t the most reliable testimony, however, and I suspect that woman actually heard about the carvings some years after moving to Pojac Point.

Brown’s relaxed manner and unrehearsed, consistent answers could have been enough to convince me he was telling the truth. But I also had some supporting evidence.

First, despite a century of armchair archaeologists trying to knock Columbus off his pedestal for whatever reason, no one mentioned the rune stone before the 1980s. Edmund B. Delabarre left it out of his overview in the Rhode Island Historical Society Collections for April 1925. Science fiction writer Frederick J. Pohl, who left few stones unturned in a quest to put Vinland on Cape Cod, didn’t mention it either.

Second, and most telling I think, is that Brown knew exactly what was carved in the stone. For all of the nonsensical and half-sensical translations that have been advanced since the stone was rediscovered, Brown told me exactly what was on the stone, errors, guesses, and all.

In other words, this 13-year-old with a hammer and punch knew the one thing that would make Vikings put up a sign: CAUTION! INDIANS!

Fact is, a strong argument can be made that anytime between, say, 800 and 1300 was a really bad time to visit southern New England. Native culture was under stress like never before. The Mediaeval Warm Period had totally messed up hunting and gathering patterns. On top of that, a new crop coming in from the west, corn, convinced many nomadic families to abandon their wandering ways. As usual, agriculture and warfare progressed apace. Corn gave the Indians a reason to stake out land and to get real mean when someone—whether a member of another tribe or a furry-chinned metal head from Iceland—tried to move in on it. It was a era for shooting first and asking questions after.

Everett Brown hit on just the right message to leave on a rock. It’s pretty funny that no one figured out the simple word he wrote considering how obvious it is now that he’s explained it.

I don’t think there was anything deceitful in what Brown did in 1964. He says he never intended to pull a prank or fabricate a hoax. It was just something a boy his age liked to do. I believe him, just as I believe that he did the carving in the first place.

We know the Norse reached New England’s shores. We can be pretty sure they wanted to stay. We can be pretty sure Skraelings wasted no time chasing them off. But we know—those of us who have stood on a rock and faced a bold new world at some young point in our lives—we know the Norse reached here.

We’re just waiting for proof still.

A couple of years ago the Narragansett Rune Stone, all six tons of it, vanished. The state got it back a year ago April. When the stone showed up in the news, Brown was spurred to get in touch with the Rhode Island Historical Society. He gave them a call, figuring someone there would help him get the truth out. He’s still waiting for someone to call him back.

Meanwhile, the stone showed up in the news again for one final shot at fame. The town of North Kingstown announced last week it would be set up for display in Updike Park. You know, like a real Viking rune stone.


Many, many thanks to Kathy Renaud Ewart and Sean Condon, who tipped me off to Everett Brown’s revealing tale, and especially to Mr. Brown himself for his good-natured interview on short notice.

I use “Norse” and “Viking” interchangeably, a bad habit of writers much better than I. Some standards of usage also call for lower-case treatment of the words Viking and Skraeling. I refer to them here as distinct cultural entities and think it’s appropriate to capitalize the terms.

Please see Debunking the Kensington Stone for more information on runes in North America. Of particular interest is the observation, “Knowledge of runes was not an esoteric academic discipline in the nineteenth century. Runic script was alive and well, especially in remote rural areas of Norway and Sweden (Boëthius 1906; Jansson 1963).”

Last but not least, for insight into what happens when science collides with belief, readers may enjoy Dealing With Electric Pandas: Why It’s Worth Trying to Explain the Difference Between Archaeology and Pseudoarchaeology.

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34 comments

  1. amccarthy2743 · · Reply

    Great story, can’t wait to read the rest!

    Skraelings, indeed. One of my favorite words.

    1. Thanks, A. As you can see, the story is done now. The next move is up to North Kingstown. Will the town fathers keep the stone on display or admit its humble origin and let it recede into obscurity? As always, it’s nice knowing you’re out there reading my stuff.

  2. Valdimar Samuelsson · · Reply

    Has anyone thought this could be hoax. I would like to know from what book Mr. Brown found those runes as not all are found in text books especially the hooked X rune as well as 3 special Icelandic runes. Using a sledge hammer and nail punch sound far out. We need better proof that just I did this. I could say now I did this in 1965 so please be more specific. History says Natives or Inborn not skraelings but they were up north and they probably were referring to the arctic people now lost..

    1. I’m going to let this comment stand without further response. I believe the questions raised here are adequately addressed in the story above.

  3. TemplarQuidnessett · · Reply

    Sorry, i’m not convinced and neither should anyone else.

    #1- June Goodhue says she’s known about the rock since she and her late husband moved to North Kingstown’s Pojac Point in 1952.
    – most people don’t forget when they move somewhere and can easily verify when they moved in with tax records, etc. Many other neighbors could likely vouch for her. You cannot BLOW off this woman’s testimony vs a person who has been living in the WOODS for decades without tv

    #2- A millionaire MELLON BANKING heir happens to live right in front of that stone. He’s the guy who was pissed everyone was finding out about it..you know the templars, the international bankers connection and origins of the real owners of this country. Most RI’ers would have no clue a person like this is living there…and yet supposedly they have North Dakota home as well? HMMMM. There are much better neighborhoods than POJAC btw around here.

    #3- The witness has the same name of a very famous elite older money family in RI- BROWN.
    This family has a history of mingling in slave trading and rubbing shoulders with families like the Forbes, Rockefellers, MELLONS, etc…exactly the people who would know about the site and would want to protect it. And yes there is a huge Rockefeller connection to RI. And guess what, there is a HUGE SINCLAIR heir connection to RI. Look up the history of the NBC WJAR channel 10, THE OUTLET, and several other things showing underground elite money here let alone Aldrich mansion, NEWPORT, etc. Guess who the lawyers of one of the Sinclair heirs was?

    #4- Witness claimed he has been off the grid, no tv, no media, nothing. Give me a break! What a perfect alibi! Sorry doesn’t pass muster. And he comes out of the woodwork right before the rock is moved to Updike..OK whatever.

    #5 there is an underground private reserve/trails right near the pojac point in question. l guarantee 99% of people even living around it wouldn’t think twice as to “why” it was claimed so close to this stone.

    #6- go look at the history of quidnesset and scallabrini VILLA itself .:
    From the beginning, the Narragansett Indians had known the beauty of Quidnessett in summer. They had, for many years, established villages for summer use at the coves along the water’s edge where the climate was gentle from May through October. The warm days were cooled by gentle breezes and the cool days warmed by the sun shining on the clear blue water of the bay. These conditions attracted affluent businessmen of the early 19th century. The property at this time belonged to the Wightman family and had been farmed since the time of Roger Williams. This properly was singled out as exceptional for development into residential property. The old house that had stood on the property was transformed into a grand manor in Victorian style. The property soon became the summer residence of wealthy textile owner Crawford Allen. The adjacent to the Quidnessett property that is now Scallabrini Villa was originally a gift from Mr. Allen to his daughter Anne and her husband John Carter Brown. The estate was completed in 1872. In 1907 Mrs. Brown donated the building to Rhode Island Hospital.

    The Allens sold the Quidnessett property to Walter Hanley a successful local brewer. In June of 1925 the property was once again sold, this time to C. Preston Knight. The Knight family owned many textile mills and made the trademark “fruit of the loom” a household name, still in use today. On June 2, 1959, Knights farm became the King Phillip Country Club, but on December 31st of the same year, the name was changed to Quidnessett Country Club.
    Sourced: http://www.quidnessett.com/About-Us/Club-History.aspx

    Yeah, so THAT BROWN family had owned the LAND..why no Mention from MR BROWN? LOL
    And also the KNIGHT Family owned it…the company Fruit of the Loom Warren Buffet bought. Knight as in Knight Templar? LOL

    Scalabrini itself was later controlled/bought by religious orders..Hmmm yet another connection and interest that all comes back to ROME.

    You see folks, you can’t make this stuff up and the deep history going on here with this property…let alone it being at same latitude as ROME. It goes on and on.

    If you look at scalabrini villa from the air you will see 2 x’s. As in double cross. Make sure you do your DD before believing ANY story. I’ve done mine

    1. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

  4. Cambrian · · Reply

    There is also a story by reporter Chris Church in the North East Independent, which ran Brown’s claim originally. From Church’s report, the following information appears to be new:

    “On Wednesday, Pat (McMahon) Lindsay contacted the Independent and said she remembers seeing the rock and the inscriptions in 1948 when her family owned 18 acres on Pojac Point.
    “I was 11 years old and I remember playing on the stone at low tide when it was showing and there were carvings,” she said. “We called it the Indian stone because we thought the Indians carved it.”

    She went on to state her siblings recall seeing the inscription long before 1964 as well, and that it was called Indian Rock due to the carvings on it.

    1. CORRECTION: You would have found the original story of Brown’s claim here at Stone Wings, not the North East Independent.

  5. Cambrian · · Reply

    The report on the stone by a state of RI coastal geologist showed the stone was on land, not in the intertidal zone, in 1939. The family that owned Pojac Point from 1840-late 1930’s make no mention of the rock on written or oral family lore while it was located on land. The geologist report indicated it may have been buried in 1939. Its location can be plotted via aerial photography as the coastline receded inland from 1939-2011. The stone was on dry land at a higher elevation in 1939, but the geologist report indicated it can’t be seen on the aerial, possibly due to over wash from the 1938 hurricane. I have a copy of this report. So, were we to take the Lindsay narratives at face value, and that of her sisters and brother, and their neighbors, the Goodhue’s, the inscription was there in 1948, and the stone by then was in the intertidal zone. Hence an irreconcilable difference between their narratives and that of the Browns. And apparently no mention of the rock or inscription until the rock was in the intertidal zone post 1939, exact date it eroded into the intertidal zone of the beach isn’t known.

    1. Thanks very much for taking the time to read and respond to some interesting points.

      The coastline changed a great deal in 1938, as I’m sure you’re aware. I don’t have the geologist’s report that you cite in front of me, but my understanding is that it doesn’t actually say the stone was on land, just that it speculates it may have been. You say you have the report, so please feel free to pull a quote that counters my impression. Honestly, though, I don’t see what difference that makes. Considering the stone’s dimensions and location, but especially considering the fever with which people have explored the local shore for Viking relics for the past two centuries, it seems pretty farfetched that it would have remained undocumented until 1985.

      As a folklore collector I know exactly how much credibility to attach to reports that the stone was there 1948-1952. I would need documentation, not testimony, to override the credibility of claimant Brown, who provided convincing evidence in explanation of his carving errors. There is no doubt the stone says “Skraelings.” A ’50s photo or a mention in a town report would, as they say, blow Brown’s statement out of the water. I’m perfectly open to the possibility. But even then I’d argue that the weight of evidence is on the side of someone having carved it in the 19th or 20th centuries.

  6. One actually reduces the value of paper by putting an affidavit on it. I’m looking forward to pre-1964 photos, tracings of the “Indian carvings” (which suggests the carvings must have looked very different from the obvious runes now carved on it), and other actual evidence.

    Those incidentals aside, as one who campaigns for facts in media, I have nothing positive to say about the Patch piece you cite.

  7. Cambrian · · Reply

    No, the geologist report shows the location of the stone was on land in 1939. The only speculation was whether it was buried at the time. It shows 3 aerial views through time, and a composite aerial of all 3. It was on land in 1939. The family owning the land from 1840 to about 1940 had no stories or tradition regarding an inscribed stone on their property. That might suggest it was buried, or it might suggest it was upside down before eroding into the water. Or it might suggest it was there, visible, but no inscription upon it at all, and thus did not attract attention. There are several possible scenarios. I disclosed the rock to the world outside Pojac Point back in 1985. I knew the hooked X would prove controversial because it had proved controversial on the Kensington Runestone. I never disclosed the location, however, or advanced theory. I recently talked to Mr. Brown at length twice and pretty much had the identical impression you did, that he was being honest with me. However, the McMahon family account in particular is hard to simply dismiss. Even without photos. Nor do I know at this time what is truth with 100% certainty. But that family considered themselves the caretaker of that rock for the years they lived there. That is my understanding, I don’t have written documentation to that effect, but I was told that at the time of the stone’s disappearance. In other words, they were the opposite of Mellon in their attitude toward the stone. They knew of it well before I was tipped off about it in 1985, so why would we seriously doubt their memory that much? These were not casual observers, but the family who owned the property before Mellon since 1948. It will be hard to dismiss detailed memories of 8 such people, and I don’t believe all reasonable people would feel more compelled by Brown’s narrative then Lindsay and sibling’s narratives. In fairness, we need documentation as much from Brown, IMHO, not testimony, to override a family who knew the rock that well. I have an M.A. in History, and am also familiar with documentation and testimony. I was equally impressed with Brown. At the same time, he did offer two different narratives altogether for the Hooked X. In one narrative, the little side bar that creates the hooked X was an accident, the chisel slipped. Believe that?? Do you believe the Hooked X was an accident of a chisel slipping? Not impossible, but one heck of a coincidence at least, the kind that might give some pause in weighing veracity. Changing narratives is one reason why not everyone would necessarily elevate Brown’s testimony over the others. Brown needs a photo from 1964. A photo from the 50’s would naturally confirm tne opposite. But to elevate either narrative, Brown or Lindsay, requires a photo in both cases, not just Lindsay. I do not subscribe to Wolter’s theories at all, BTW. I’m not another “enthusiast”. His are works of faction, IMO, fiction written as if it were fact. Problem is some people actually mistake his work as serious research, when it’s mostly Dan Brown style BS. But in the present instance, the stone should probably go on display with appropriate signage eventually.

  8. Cambrian · · Reply

    A quote from the report on the rock at Pojac Point by coastal geologist Janet Freedman, who visited the rock twice on site in 2012, prior to the disappearance:

    “An investigation of shoreline changes at Pojac Point was done using orthophotography available from the RI Geographic Information System (RIGIS) and aerial photography georeferenced as part of the CRMC shoreline change analyses (Hehre, 2007). The boulder was identified on the 2011 orthophoto (figure 7) and the location overlain on the earlier aerial photographs. In 1939 that location was on the upland. If the boulder was on the site it may have been buried and less exposed to weathering. However, it may have been subjected to plowing and certainly would have undergone heating and thawing unless deeply buried. The elevation of the site at that time was lower than ten feet above mean high tide. The 1939 aerial shows a line of disturbed vegetation that probably is the extent of overwash from the 1938 hurricane to the west of the boulder location (figure 8). This area has repeatedly been subject to hurricane storm surge, with major storms hitting about once every century. By 1975 the boulder location was on the intertidal beach near the high water line. The digital aerial photo is not at a high enough resolution to identify the boulder. It is seen on the 1988 aerial photograph in the water just offshore.”

  9. Cambrian · · Reply

    By the way, I’ve studied all the petroglyph sites in the Narragansett Basin and some of my research/photos on Mark Rock in Warwick were published in Picture Rocks:American Indian Rock Art in the Northeast Woodlands(2002) by Ed Lenik. So I’m very familiar with petroglyphs in this region, and certainly we can say the characters on the Narragansett Stone are not Native American petroglyphs. However, Native American petroglyph sites, Dighton Rock comes to mind, have been misidentified as Norse, etc. so a I do believe the argument that calling it Indian Rock is somehow weak because they are not Native is weak. Layman make these mistakes. In both directions, so to speak. It doesn’t surprise me as much as yourself for that reason, that people might think “Indians did it”. But, just a thought.

    Also worth noting is that the largest petroglyph site in the region, Mark Rock in Warwick, was visited by the RIHS team of Bartlett and Webb in the 1840’s. They stood upon it, and found no carvings, concluded it was bogus. Another 80 years went by, and the glyphs were visible in the 1840’s and 18th century for that matter. Yet it went unrecorded entirely, most extensive site in the region, until the early 20th century. So not too hard to believe a site could go undetected. But in this case, on land from 1939 backwards, and so far, the testimony is silent prior to 1948…..

  10. Cambrian · · Reply

    BTW, sorry for all these comments, but just wanted to say I did understand what Brown was saying about the characters and I went so far as to suggest his translation works even if his narrative isn’t true. Which, at the time, was another reason I was taken by his narrative. I felt, as I think you did, that he offered the most parsimonious explanation. Certainly far more parsimonious then Knights Templar and secret biological bloodlines of Jesus Christ. That particular interpretation of the Hooked X was the idea of an individual without any training as an historian, rewriting history for the uneducated masses of pop culture. And, in the process, creating a conspiracy theory that the Smithsonian has been/is actively hiding America’s true history from the American people. We live in an Age of Conspiracy Theories and some have applied that “zeitgeist” of this era to our history: it too is being hidden from us! Very difficult for responsible and rational historians/archaeologists to overcome this spreading distrust of educated opinion. Actually, the Smithsonian conspiracy theory is an old one and not really a recent invention. It has just become a favorite refrain of those unable to publish in peer review formats because their research methodology is too shoddy to pass muster. So, blame the established academics for suppressing truth. It’s a very sad development when denizens of pop culture lay siege to academia in an effort to overlay their fantasy history upon a gullible public. A very sad development and the History Network is actively promoting the dumbing down of the American public regarding their own history. These developments sicken responsible researchers practicing responsible research and who understand upon whom the burden of proof for exotic alternative histories lies.

    However, parsimonious translation or not, if anyone might want a “Norse” or “Icelandic” interpretation to be valid, it might be myself. I certainly was excited in 1985 when the quahogger’s tip led us to the stone. But I just want the truth. I’m not sure what that is. I have no problem with a 19th century origin rather then the exotic offerings. But prior to 1948, we don’t know much at all, and the story of Mark Rock, which has 18th century graffiti alongside Native glyphs, is cautionary in that respect. The Rev. Ezra Styles, first President of Yale College and petroglyph recorder, stayed at Greene’s Hold one time, and the Mark Rock was on their property. Nothing. Bartlett and Webb visited the site and reported an extensive ledge. Nothing, even though there is no reason for them to miss glyphs, they recorded similar designs elsewhere around the bay, looking for Norse ruins for Swedish scholar Rafn. But at Mark Rock, nothing. So, not being recorded during the initial Vilking craze initiated by Rafn himself, is not proof that the Narragansett Stone was not there. And according to area residents, it was there from about the time it must have eroded onto the shore until 1985 without being known beyond Pojac Point and vicinity. If the inscription was there of course. My point being missing Mark Rock, the largest petroglyph site in the region, also seems far fetched in retrospect. But it happened. Missing the Narragansett Stone might not be as far fetched as it might seem at first glance.

    1. Cambrian, thanks so much for your detailed comments. Folklore studies invite the absurd, so it’s rare and wonderful to see rational analysis in response to my posts. Among your comments, you requested that I excise a short one you had made earlier. I’m right there with you on that. While we agree about the subject of your comment, I too didn’t see any reason to poke the hornet’s nest, if you know what I mean. Thanks for your thoughtfulness in that regard.

      You are right that there are too many unanswered questions to say that Brown definitely did it, but it’s easy enough to speculate scenarios that explain each of the unanswered questions. For example, there may well have been non-runic carvings on the rock—Indian petroglyphs, specifically—that Brown incorporated into his runes, lending veracity both to Brown’s account and to the testimony of those who lived at the site before 1964.

      To me, the overriding significance of Brown’s story is that many of the enigmas we find on the shore, in the woods, and atop mountains are often more ordinary than we want to believe. I know you agree, it’s bad science to speculate a conclusion and then to look for evidence to support it. It’s even worse science to pretend that science can answer questions it can’t, such as the age of the carving by some mystery of geology (a la you know who).

      If this journal Stone Wings ever serves a greater purpose, I hope it is to show how interesting the ordinary actually is. There is arguably more significance in the idea that a 13-year-old boy carved runes in 1964 than there is in the proposition that Leif Erikson or his descendants may have briefly landed on a Rhode Island beach.

  11. Cambrian · · Reply

    Thanks for your kind words, Kent. I appreciate your cautious approach to mysteries of this sort. As it stands at the moment, I suspect a situation has developed via this latest chapter in the stone’s story by which many people will simply gravitate toward the viewpoint that most conforms to their underlying beliefs, some people being naturally conservative by temperament and philosophy, while others are more readily willing to entertain more exotic ideas. Although most anyone can agree it would not be extraordinary to imagine Norse or Icelandic arrival in southern New England, sometimes the philosophical differences are denoted by what one person considers good evidence while another person finds the same “evidence” less then absolutely compelling. But, we’ll see. There may yet be a new twist. Or Brown and the McMahon clan may have their vocal supporters for generations to come!

    Brief observation regarding older and younger characters on a rock. The natives pecked petroglyphs on rocks. Generally not engraving or incising. Just peck in lines with a harder smaller stone. It takes a certain amount of time, once the outer skin or cortex of the boulder has been broken, for the surface of the interior of the characters to matched the deeply aged patina of the rocks cortex or skin, exposed for tens of thousands of years perhaps. Put another way, assuming for the sake of argument that Brown carved the inscription in 1964, the family in question should have noticed new characters and one would expect they would recognize what is visible now was quite different in 1948. But, that isn’t proven, or at least that is not something pointed out by them. However, once Brown carved the characters, the patina difference between the surface interior of the characters would have exhibited a much lighter color/surface because there is no patina at first. Once Brown carved an inscription in 1964, in other words, that inscription would have exhibited a very fresh patina for awhile. Not sure how long, but it would have displayed a very stark contrast. The fresh nature would have been very obvious for an indeterminate amount of time. I’ve collected and surface hunted Native American artifacts for decades, and depth of patina, or lack of depth of patina is something that eventually becomes an unconscious level of recognition. And you learn, thereby, how to spot fake artifacts! So, FWIW, which isn’t much at this point in time, but it is a fact that if a Brown did carve it in 1964, for some amount of time that inscription would have looked like it had been carved “yesterday”. No mention of that by the McMahon clan or others, but wanted to point out it would have to take time for the patina of a carving made today to match the patina of the “host rock’s” outer surface/cortex/skin. Would it still look fresh in 1965? Good question. Would 50 years of daily tides have produced the degree of water-wear softening of the lines seen? Another good question. Don’t have the answers.

    Glad I did find your blog. And thanks for correcting me on the byline so to speak. Your’s was the first online account of Brown’s revelations. The Independent is where it first appeared written up by a”newspaper” reporter. I found your blog entry after Church’s article and I did notice it was dated earlier. FWIW, a gentleman by the name of James Carr, who was described to me as a retired cop of 25 years experience, originally sent notice to many “interested parties” suggesting they contact Mr. Brown for his version of the origin of the Narragansett Stone.

    So, we’ll see what new twists, if any, are forthcoming. Again, glad to have found a venue where this could be discussed.

    1. Re the story’s debut: Not really hung up about who wrote what first, but I was in the news business and find a bit of self-deprecating humor in the whole “exclusive” thing. Just poking fun at myself … but also, as a tiny voice in a sea of online buzz, experiencing a slightly irrational joy at catching the story on the crest of the wave.

      Your observations on the relative aging of stone are especially useful here, thoughtful, speculative, yet cautious as all good science deserves to be. A certain geologist with a bachelor’s degree in Minnesota makes regular reference to his ability to judge the age of inscriptions. Yet it seems the higher the academic degree in geology, the less sure one becomes. I suspect, having seen how fast surface changes occur on various forms of bound particulate like Rhode Island sandstone, that anything regularly exposed to seawater would defy accurate age assessment within a few decades. But what do I know? It’s not like I have an associate of arts degree in geology :)

      I’m not surprised by Mr. Carr’s involvement, as I understand Mr. Brown mentioned his carving escapade to a number of co-workers and acquaintances. What surprises me is how long it took for state agencies to respond. Oops, scratch that. I was in the news business; I’m not surprised at all.

      One thing I am fairly certain of is that the stone says “Skraelings,” sort of, and that neither Vikings nor Templars would have sailed thousands of miles to carve that on a chunk of sandstone. Naturally, the only way I would be 100 percent certain is if I carved it myself. (I have a story yet to tell, much like Mr. Brown’s, about gullibility and a UFO photo I took 50 years ago.)

      Keep up the good work, Cambrian, and please let us know if you have any publications online or on good ol’ paper—or carved in stone, for that matter.

  12. Cambrian · · Reply

    Kent, here is a statement Everett Brown left in the North Kingstown Patch Opinion section on 7/19/14:

    My name is Everett Brown. I carved the Runes in the very early 1960’s.
    Here is my TRUE story and facts surrounding this “mystery”.

    I became aware of the interest in my carving when my brother, Warren, called and stated” remember when we were kids and used to go to Pojac Point with the family….. and you carved that stone? Well, guess what? It’s in the Journal”.
    Shocked, I discovered that the rune was indeed generating interest and I thought I needed to have my say….. in spite of what the experts claim. Fact is, the “experts” are incorrect when some state that the stone dates to 1300 while others state as recent as the 1940’s. If they listen to me , the story is far less grand but still interesting, I believe.
    My family used to travel by boat to Pojac Point each summer. I was 13 at the time and became interested in this one particular stone ( now the infamous Rune Stone). Each time my family visited, I would use either a pointed chisel OR a flat head chisel, sometimes, both. I would work at the carving from 5am til about 1:30 pm in the afternoon or until my parents would summon me back to the boat where it was anchored. There were other boats there as well. In fact, we were very close to the Scalabrini Home.
    I was unfamiliar with runes but sought out certain runes that resembled letters. Put on a thirteen year old mind for a minute and you may see the wonder I felt as I carved what was simplt letters….just letters.
    Looking at the Projo photo I asked myself” what went wrong here”? Remember, I’m looking back to a summer project after 50 years of summers have passed.
    Then I recalled that I began to hurry the project, mistakes were made and the lower part of the “A” was compromised. The fourth letter and the “mistake” were to be identical. But , I am NOT a master carver, just a 13 year old kid at the time.
    The “hooked X ” as the experts like to refer it as, is more shallow than the rest. I have no memory of using a “rat tail” file but gently used a pointed and a flat chisel because I was deathly afraid of damaging adjacent runes.
    The ” F” character was carved nicely. I recall being very pleased with the result. The summer was ending but I knew I would return the following summer to continue my work…. and I did. With a vengence.
    My story is VERY detailed and I am hoping that you will find it interesting. If there are comments that favor my story to its conclusion, please post your comments and I will continue.
    PLEASE be aware that there are many who are attempting to discredit me. Many who have self interests and many who would be devastated that their hypothesis was far from the truth. Experts who cannot agree that the stone was either carved 400 years ago or 50 years ago.
    I am the creator of the Narragansett Rune. I will take a polygraph test to prove that and have insisted that they somehow find the funds to “put me to the test”.
    I have ZERO to gain, my neighbors. ZERO.
    What do they have to gain?
    Frankly, if the stone is placed on display and folks come to see its beauty, they will need to know its origin. It begins and ends with me…..
    Believe the artist NOT the experts who want to make something out of this that it simply is not.
    PLEASE POST YOUR COMMENTS

  13. Cambrian · · Reply

    To the above statement, Everett Brown added the following:

    Hello,
    To clarify: The rune that I carved was done so ONLY when the tides would allow. I noticed a time error but was unable to correct after posting. As my true story unfolds, I will post many facts for you to consider and ask that you come to your own conclusion, respectfully. I am anxious to share my story of a fascinating journey that filled my childhood with wonderful memories of Pojac Point. An area that I still, to this day, find magical.
    My story will continue and the facts will show how the Narragansett rune stone was created….. step by step. I am the only person who can provide that information. Thank you, E.B / JEC

    J.E.C. are the initials of the man who had contacted many people to inform them that Everett carved the Runestone. I don’t know what, if anything, his motivations might be, beyond being friendly with Everett. Also, in the initial statement, Everett said he continued his work the following summer, but since the F was the last character, I do not know what work he would have continued? Also, I believe the statement by Brown suggesting some think it was carved in the 1940’s was based simply on the casual speculation I threw out in the Colavito blog dealing with this subject, which I suspect J.E.C. read and Brown repeats. But it was not presented as a formal theory, just speculation on my part because the stone did not reside in the intertidal zone until post 1939, and if the McMahon’s did see the inscription on 1948, it might have been carved in the brief window between it’s arrival in the intertidal zone and the McMahon’s possible discovery in 48. Speculation, not a new theory. But, to me, it says J.E.C. was keeping Everett informed of online debates regarding his revelation. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with that, since Everett has no personal access to the Internet. I do find all the snide remarks about his lack of connectivity to the 21st century to be meaningless and petty criticisms proving nothing whatsoever, BTW.

  14. Cambrian · · Reply

    And Mr. Brown’s 7/19/14 statement can be found here:

    http://patch.com/rhode-island/northkingstown/i-created-the-narragansett-rune–please-read-#.U9PSF9q9KSM

    I hope, as I suggested to him, that he continues to add to the page as he remembers things or if he finds a photograph, etc.

  15. Cambrian · · Reply

    The North Kingstown Patch reported on 8/4/14 that RIDEM has concluded that Everett Brown is “likely lying”, based on it’s investigation. Mr. Brown apparently declined to speak with investigators, according to the Patch.

    http://patch.com/rhode-island/north-kingstown/dem-says-no-evidence-support-browns-claim-carving-rune-stone#.U-Fu8tq9KSN

    1. Between the Patch’s pop journalism and DEM’s dismissive investigation, I don’t consider the case for Everett Brown closed. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Mr. Brown declined to speak with investigators. I would do the same if I had carved the runes myself. I’ll be discussing this in a future post, where I’ll also take a closer look at dating inscriptions in sandstone and a certain Minnesota geologist’s nonsense analysis of the Kensington Rune Stone’s age.

      I really hesitate to put the Patch’s link on Stone Wings, given the reporter’s tendency to confuse hypothesis and speculation. He also failed to say whether “likely lying” were his words or the Department of Environmental Management’s. There’s a big difference. From the quotes in the story, it seems DEM only said there was no proof Mr. Brown was telling the truth. We already knew that. I guess I’ll have to see the report to make any sense of this.

      It seems, long before Mr. Brown came along, a lot of people already made up their minds and desperately wanted this to be a Viking or Templar artifact. As I mentioned here, belief obstructs the open mind.

  16. Kent, you have been pwned by a bullshit artist.

    1. I hope it was clear I relayed a story that may or may not be true. It’s OK to live without absolute answers. That’s how science works. And you should see what Mr. Brown’s tale has done for traffic to this site.

      Regardless of the DEM investigation, however, Mr. Brown’s explanation still remains the most parsimonious. This is not the same as saying it’s true, although it certainly shines brighter beside the fancy that the runes are an authentic relic of a pre-Columbian voyage.

  17. Aaron Sugarman · · Reply

    It seems it would be quite easy to look at photographs of the Narragansett Stone, compare them to Runes, and then make up a story explaining how and why it was carved. I could do that by looking at Plymouth Rock, for example…

    “It was the summer of 1953 and my family and I were on vacation near the town of Plymouth… I was reading about the founding of the area and decided I would make a date stone like ones I had seen on the building of my school. My dad kept a chisel in the back of the car as he was a carpenter, and of course a hammer, we never took trips without the tools because in those days, if our car broke down my Dad had to fix it himself. But to the story, I was happily carving away on my date, only, I made a mistake and thought it was 1820, so as i was carving the 8, my brother yelled to me that it shouldn’t be an 8, it should be a 6, so I stopped chiseling, and that is why the 6 kind of looks like it was going to be an 8. The other numbers I did really well, I thought, trying to emulate the number style i had seen on my school so many times, which was built in 1920… only I know these details, and I will reveal more in the future…”

    The letter from Brown, posted above, has a partial ring of truth, like my story, but in but pointing out how detailed his explanation, Mr Brown somewhat discredits it for me… it seems that he is too self-conscious of how detailed he has made his story; I am not sure an honest person would point out how detailed it was, and then go back and edit his story after he or someone else pointed out the details were wrong, that he couldn’t carve from 5 am to 1:30 because of the tides… could be a bad memory, but also could be he is trying to cover his tracks. Like, he claims he was proud of carving the F, and then returned the next summer to continue carving with a vengeance. Carving what? The F was the last rune, unless he was carving in reverse. And just what does XF apparently spell, to a child unfamiliar with Runes? Interpreted by their common meaning, the runes seem rather mundane such as sun, ride, land, estate, ice, etc..

    I have a feeling Mr. Brown saw a photo of the Runes and came up with an alternative explanation for the meaning, and decided to have some fun and lay claim to the stone, with a story, pointing out he is the “only person” who knows the truth, but who knows…

    Rather than focus on Mr. Brown, I think those involved should focus on the 8 people who claim they saw the runes prior to 1963. Are they telling the truth? Do their stories ring true?

    TRUTH: I recall seeing carvings as a child in Newport quite vividly, in the late 70s/early 80s, I don’t recall exactly what letters they were, but I recall exactly where they were, and they were initials and they were dated, and they were in stone, and dated back to the 1700s. I don’t recall taking a camera there, probably because of the sea water. It was just something cool to find, as others found it before me, why would I document it?

    The woman who recalls seeing the Narragansett stone as a child in the 1940s is either lying or 100% honest, and why would she lie? Does she really want to help perpetuate a myth started by Brown, at her age? I don’t know what the truth is here, but I am leaning against Mr. Brown.

    There is also other evidence to suggest the Norse were in Narragansett hundreds of years before Verrazzano arrived in 1524… he writes that the natives were fair-skinned and tended towards white… then, based on his findings, his friend Maggiolo identified the Narragansett area with the words “Norman villa” on a 1527 map… then Roger Williams in 1643 wrote that the Narragansett Indians were from Iceland… then, several years ago, DNA researchers discover that some Iceland people have dna markers connected to native americans but not Inuit, and the markers indicate a common native american female ancestor who lived about 1000AD…

    These few facts are suggestive, not proof, that the Norse were in the area hundreds of years before Columbus reached “the new world”, but in light of those ancient coincidences, an ancient origin for the Rune stone is possible, in my view. More likely than Mr. Brown’s story, at this point… taken together with the 8 witnesses from prior to 1964.

    I just hope someone, someday, gets to the bottom of this mystery. It seems far more likely to me that explorers from Iceland, etc., would NOT stop in Newfoundland, and would continue southwards down the coast and would leave carvings behind… than Swedes carving it in the late 1800s because they were excited about Norse legends…

    Why would the Norse reach Vinland, name the place, write about it, place a compound with long houses at the first spot they reached, and never explore southward?

    Who travels 1000 miles to Disney Land and turns around at the parking lot and goes home?

    Colombus never reached Rhode Island, anyway, so what’s the big deal if the Norse arrived in 1000AD? Keep up the good work, loved this thread.

    1. I’m glad to see this story has spurred your imagination as it has mine. Having spoken with Mr. Brown several times and knowing the parts of the conversation I didn’t include in my short article, I do not share your skepticism. I can state with complete confidence that Mr. Brown was not seeking publicity, as has been dishonestly suggested by others.

      On the other hand, I would also caution that having an opinion without sufficient data is bad science. Please continue your reading on this subject, as there is plenty of actual research that will answer some of the questions you raise. But by all means stick with actual science and avoid popular works on the subject. There is, unfortunately, a thick fog of unscientific speculation out there, even among ostensibly scientific archaeological associations.

      I agree that the Greenlanders explored farther south than the northern tip of Newfoundland, and this is recounted in the sagas. The Greenlanders were farmers, not pillagers like the Vikings who raided the British Isles. Other than a few impulsive acts of bravery, it appears the Greenlanders were quickly convinced by the “skraelings” to abandon their southward quest – considering the warlike nature of the Abenaki and Mi’kmaq populations, possibly never getting beyond Nova Scotia’s north shore. But even if they did, they surely didn’t take the time to carve “skraelings” in a random soft sedimentary rock on a swampy beach far up skraeling-heavy Narragansett Bay.

      And there is absolutely no doubt the word on Quidnesset Rock is “skraelings.” The odds are far slimmer that Mr. Brown was the first person to figure this out in the (minimum) 76 years the rock has been exposed than that he did the carving. And if he didn’t carve it and he is the first, then by golly the guy deserves an honorary degree in archaeology.

  18. I would hate to sit on the jury that would have to identify this one… Perhaps the best approach would be to get all the witnesses and Mr Brown and have them take a polygraph. Why would an elderly woman make up a story about seeing it as a child? I have to admit, your story is compelling… If Brown is lying, and didn’t want publicity, he had another motive, and thought a call to the state history guy would be enough. I don’t see skraelings, I sort of see part of it, but its not obvious to me… This may remain a mystery. Thanks for reply.

    1. There wouldn’t be a jury. There is no case. To form anything resembling a final opinion would be to abandon science, just as speculation based on several unknowns (a la The History Channel) does not qualify as theory. A polygraph, unfortunately, is not the precision instrument Hollywood paints it to be. Nonetheless, I fail to see a motive for Mr. Brown to be dishonest, as it is obvious he was not seeking publicity. To me, the runes for SKRAYLIN(-?-) are plain as day (and, I’m told, aren’t the runes an actual Norse writer between 1000 and 1500 CE would have used for the word). On the other hand, the testimony of other Pojac Point residents was cherry picked, vague, and not necessarily contradictory to Mr. Brown’s story. And why haven’t these accounts been published, other than passing mentions in newspaper articles?

      Speaking of newspaper articles, while I was the first to report this story – and only after I convinced Mr. Brown to go public – The Providence Journal was the only print publication I saw that reported his story accurately.

      This tale illustrates the fallacy of looking for evidence to fit a theory, rather than the other way around, forming a theory that fits the evidence. I’ve said it before and, almost a year later, stand solidly behind it: Mr. Brown’s story best fits the available facts. It remains the most parsimonious theory. But it still might be wrong.

      I’ve enjoyed your comments and our ensuing discussion. Sorry for my verbosity, but I try to cover all the bases for anyone else who follows this so I probably end up overstating a lot. I’m glad it comes at a time when almost three feet of snow keeps me at my keyboard.

    2. History Channel would spend an hour suggesting aliens carved it 5000 years ago… You make a compelling point, I wish we knew the truth.

  19. Cambrian · · Reply

    Mr. Spottswood, I believe you made claims elsewhere on the Internet that Jane Goodhue possibly confused the Narragansett Stone with either the Mt. Hope Stone, or Dighton Rock, when she claimed to have seen the Narragansett Stone inn1952. (The McMahon’s first saw it in 1948, BTW)
    What is the basis for your claim? It might interest you to know, that at the installation ceremony for the Narragansett Stone in Wickford, Ms. Goodhue announced she had located an early photo of, not Dighton Rock, not the Mt. Hope Stone, but…..the Narragansett Stone!! Most exciting news!

    You may also find of interest a comment delivered to me from one of Mr. Brown’s close friends: “Everett loves to tell tales. To be honest, we just never know when Everett is telling a true story or telling one of his tales again. The man loves his tales”. Exact quote Mr. Spottswood.

    So long Mr. Brown. Nice try. Better luck with one of your many tales next time, sir!

    1. You believe wrong, sir. I haven’t paid this story any attention since the last comments ran. To my memory I never mentioned Mount Hope Stone or Dighton Rock on the Net, and your comment is possibly the first time I’ve seen the name Jane Goodhue. But my memory is not the most reliable tool in my drawer. It’s nice the McMahons saw inscriptions on the rock. If they were sloppy runes running left to right saying “Skraelings,” it’s a pretty good guess they got carved some time between 1890 and the first time someone saw them. No one wins anything by being first.

      I’m biding my time, waiting for incontrovertible proof, keeping an open mind. If you’re looking for an argument, you’ll have to look somewhere else.

      Thanks for the update, though. If anything pops up, please keep our small but enthusiastic Stone Wings crowd informed. We appreciate it!

  20. Sir, I left a reply on Colavito’s blog explaining the role of the retired police officer. I did not make him up out of “thin air”, which, for some inexplicable reason, you suggested I did…..

    1. I didn’t say you made him up out of thin air. I said as far as anything I’ve ever written or read, this mention of a police officer showed up out of thin air in a comment at least partly addressed to me. I’d never heard of him. I still don’t have a name, verifiable documentation, or an inkling why I should care.

      The answer to the story of Quidnessett Rock lies in hard evidence at this point. Speculation is fun but futile. Mentioning unnamed sources and lost photos is unfair to Mr. Brown and counterproductive to scientific inquiry.

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