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The Mystery Of The Giant "Viking" Runestone Found In Landlocked Oklahoma

What would Vikings be doing this far from the oceans?

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockNov 2 2022, 12:34 UTC
A piece of rock with old runes inscribed.
Who could have left these markings? Image credit: Heymangirl79/Wikimedia Commons

In Le Flore County near Heavner, landlocked Oklahoma, there is a large piece of sandstone covered with runic markings that some believe date back to 600-800 CE, and were left there by Vikings.

In the 1920s, a local to Heavner, Gloria Farley of the Smithsonian, was made aware of the giant sandstone. From then on she spent much of her life researching the stone and convincing others to further investigate. 

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"[Farley] claims that there was another report already in the 1870s, which I think is possible but I haven't seen absolute binding evidence of that," Professor of Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University, Henrik Williams explained in a conversation with YouTuber and Norse mythology and language expert Jackson Crawford. 

"She also claims that ... the Choctaws, the local tribe at the time ... [are rumored to] have seen this inscription in the 1830s," he added, though he doubts that there is evidence for this.


The rune, a large slab 3 meters (10 feet) wide by 3.7 meters (12 feet high), was thought to have been carved by Native Americans. However, Farley believed the stone displayed characters of the runic alphabet used by peoples of northern Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland before the 17th Century. 

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Translations of the runes suggested at first that it said GNOMEDAL, with "Gnome" and "dal" translated to "sundial valley" or "monument valley". Later, it was translated to mean GLOMEDAL, or "Glome's Valley", maybe as a claim to land by somebody with the name Glome.

Farley believed that the runes may have been left there by Vikings as they traveled through Oklahoma.

"The continent was then paved with shining highways: an unpolluted river system. All the explorers would have to do was to follow the coastlines to find the mouths of rivers, both large and small," she wrote in a book on the topic. "Ship pilots who rounded the Florida peninsula and entered the Gulf of Mexico would have discovered the Mississippi River, along with other smaller streams. The explorers who navigated these rivers must have left behind some evidence of their passage."

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However, despite searches, there has been little evidence of Viking activity in Oklahoma in the central US. What's more, Vikings did not tend to leave runestones lying around.

“We have no examples of people doing so in the older Futhark, and they’re even very rare back home,” Williams told Oaklahoma news outlet Times Record. “Even Sweden and Norway are the only countries that have proper runestones from this time. Denmark don’t have them. There are no Vikings or earlier inscriptions on Iceland or Greenland. So it’s a big jump from Sweden to Heavener.”

Other archaeologists looking at the runes have concluded that they are likely a modern creation. Citing the fact that no evidence has been found of Vikings in the region and the sequence of runes being rare in Old Norse, one archaeologist concluded that "pending the creation of a way to date the inscription directly, virtually all the evidence points against this stone being a Viking artifact".

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The rune does not appear to be of Viking origin, but with very few Scandanavians around the area at the time, or others with knowledge of runes, Williams is unclear on how it could be a modern (pre-1920, at least) creation.

"So I'm more and more leaning against it through the theory that martians probably carved this," he said in jest, "because it's inexplicable as an ancient rune-stone it's also very difficult to explain as a modern one."

Writing in Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications, early-medievalist Lyle L Tompsen had their own idea.

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"What can we say about this carver of the Heavener rune stone? He was most likely descended from a people who had only just recently begun to find their identity and recover their own history. He was perhaps a proud intellectual who believed that the written language of his ancestors was important and by using it he was identifying himself with it. He wanted to make a mark that could be seen from a distance and that marked something important to him, perhaps as a territory marker," Tompsen wrote

"Anyone seeing this stone would realize a Norseman had been here. And, just possibly, as he carved the letters in their ancient form in preference to their modern form, he smiled with the relish that Scandinavians who are known for their practical joking would, realized that no one would really know if he did it, or a Viking did."


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