Skip to main content

The Narragansett Rune Stone

140710nei rune carvings2

Back in the mid 1980s, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission came into possession (I'm not sure how) of a large chunk of sandstone (7 feet wide, 5 feet high, 2.5 feet deep) on which were carved the above symbols, some of which at least were ancient Norse characters. The sandstone thus came to be known as the Quidnessett Rock, or the Narragansett Rune Stone, and impressed experts on the Norse/Viking presence in North America as authentic.

The stone was apparently stolen from the RIHPHC in 2012, then recovered by law enforcement in 2013. This caused a flurry of press coverage and that in turn brought forward Everett Brown.

Brown now claims that he carved the stone, 50 years ago, thus some 20 years before its discovery. He was a 13 year old kid in 1964, fascinated by Vikings and skilled at carving -- he was also a kid whose family vacationed each summer on the Rhode Island coast. He had too much time on his hands  and access to his father's tools and so ... voila! ... an authentic-looking artifact.

I first learned of this controversy only quite recently, when I happened to be taking in the beach air on Block Island, RI, and picked up a copy of the Block Island Times. It contains a column by J.V. Houlihan, a fellow who says he has known the self-identified carver, Brown, for decades and believes in his honesty.

Of course the only reason why Houlihan has felt it necessary to write such a column is that there are those who question Brown's account, continuing to believe that the stone pictured above is an authentic Norse relic.

Two women, sisters, who were children living on the coast in the 1940s, say they remember seeing a stone matching the description of the later 'discovery' in the tidal waters then. "I remember playing on the stone at low tide when it was showing and there were carvings," says one. If the stone they remember is the one now in possession of the RIHPHC, then of course it couldn't be something awaiting creation 20 years later.

A neat little mystery, especially for those of us who share the young Brown's fascination with Norse  culture, and its presence in North America. My understanding is that if the rock is what it appears to be, that presence went a good deal further southward than has been thought.

What I would like to believe is that Brown is misremembering his childhood, or remembering a different rock, which may still be "out there" to be discovered. I don't know that he has any clear reason for attempting to pull off a conscious deception here, but it would be good to imagine the Norse presence as wider than hitherto thought, and as encompassing, at least in one scouting expedition, southern New England.

But of course the world is what it is and doesn't care what we would like to believe about it. the world is everything that is the case.


  1. Anyone think to ask Mr. Everett Brown what the stone says ?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…