The Oklahoma Runestone

by Cyclone Covey, Ph.D.

 

Originally published in Ancient American Magazine March/April 1994.

 

In the 1830’s, soon after the forced removal of aboriginal tribes into Indian Territory, Chocktaw hunters roaming vast, vacant, forested hills came upon the mammoth runestone in an idyllic vale of Poteau, Mt.  It had stood immemorially hidden in its remote ravine.  Gloria Farley first hiked to it in 1928 when no path yet led the two miles uphill from her home town, Heavener, Oklahoma.  A precocious little girl, she realized c.1930 that the large characters carved on “Indian Rock” were runes; but not until 1951, on moving back to Heavener from Ohio, did she clear away the gray lichen and begin serious study of this “billboard” (her word).  She measured the protective semicircle of overhanging cliffs at 40′ high.  The huge stone below was an upright gray slab of very hard, fine-grained Pennsylvania Savanna sandstone 12′ high, 10′ wide, and 16″ thick.  Geologists told her it once projected the cliff above and fell to its present position in a primeval time.  The large runes, 6 1/2 to 9 1/2″ high, stretch horizontally nearly two yards (69″) across the west face 3/4 to 1″ wide.  Tool marks, 1/4 to 3/16″ deep, were detectable but the sharp-chiseled edges had weather-rounded despite the natural shelter (Westville Symposium Papers #17).

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Gloria’s name and accelerating discoveries were long famous in Oklahoma when I examined the big runestone May 21st, 1965, (before its fencing for the state park) and a few days afterward beheld aghast a replica of the Ruthwell Cross and other large British runestones in the National Museum of Scotland that bore the same and similar characters.  It took no special acumen to recognize that the Heavener staverow consisted of letters from the older, 24 rune futhark, not the later 16-rune futhork or any combination of the two.  So Alf Monge’s 1967 insistence on six of the Heavener letters from the older, but second and eighth from the later, to solve the inscription as a medieval cryptopuzzle for the date 11 Nov. 1012 (St. Martin’s Day) failed to beguile.  Norway-born Monge, a former Army cryptanalyst genius, misassumed all the Arkansas-system runestone puzzles recording dates, which he figured to fall in the 11th Century, because Thorfinn Karlsefni’s saga-attested expedition to Vinland took place after 1000 A.D., when, however, the old style of certain Heavener runes was half a millennium obsolete.  The Kensington Stone specifies its own date, 1362 (in Arabic-Norse runes, i.e. after Arabic numerals were known in Scandinavia but before adoption of outright Arabic form), its grisly message consistent with 14th-Century-style runes, three letters in Latin (AVM for “Ave Maria”).  The Heavener Stone presents a straightforward identification in 3rd-5th Century styles. 

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Monge read instead: GAOMEDAT, which he knew was not a word, to make his date come out right.  He realized that by the time #9 meant T, O was written  #8 , whereas in the previous futhark of Heavener runes, T would have been 2.  He construed the Heavener N as A of the later alphabet (the earlier wrote A 5 ) and misread the clear aesc,  8 , as asc, i.e. plain broad a as in “ah”.

 

By 1961 the Viking expert Frederick Pohl, of Norwegian descent, had read the aesc the same, thus GNOMEDAL, which would be Norse “Gnome Valley.”  But the word is GNOMEDAEL, thus Anglo-Saxon in form.  Many students besides Pohl and Monge decided the inscription was not a word.  But whether Norse or Anglo-Saxon, it makes a quaint, appropriate name for a miniature vale or dell as if of gnomes.  Runes in the same evolving styles were written in differing dialects: Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon, the last written in runes as late as Alfred the Great; the pre-migration Old English epic Beowulf (unwritten till the 8th Century) tells a tale set in Denmark or Sweden.  The discovery that Anglo-Saxon was still spoken in isolated pockets of Sweden astounded 19th Century philologists.  How to get Anglo-Saxon writers to the Arkansas during the Heavener rune-style of 200-500 A.D. beats me, but an aesc is an aesc.

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Eminent Dane Richard Nielsen also read the aesc as an asc as late as 1986.  He did demonstrate what should never have come into question, that the Heavener inscription uses a single alphabet; yet he had to stretch to a 10th Century precedent to read GLOMETHAL (deciding D is “th” after a vowel, which does not make any difference since thal and dal mean the same thing, dell or vale. Glom (usually Glam) is a proper name in a 1014 A.D. Norse saga for “ghostly looking man,” related to Old Norse glamr for “moon,” to modern Swedish glama, “to stare,” and English “glamour.”  So, Nielsen explained (ESOP 1986) and went on to suggest that in some dialects e might have replaced standard a for genitive, thus his solution: “Glom’s Valley.”  He did not fail to point out that Glomdal and Glomstad exist as place-names in Norway.

Right or wrong in his transliteration/translation, Nielsen realized the Heavener Runestone dated to possibly 800 A.D., or a little before or after, stretching the date to catch the beginning of Viking expansion which, however, commenced after the new futhork had come into vogue.  Even allowing for along period of overlap, the three-centuries’ stretched date of 800 itself stretches Viking possibility.  We can hardly get Vikings of the sagas to Oklahoma before they got to Ireland, Iceland or Greenland.

They would have had to have been earlier unsung Vikings or Angle-Saxons in the Roman or early-medieval period.  The Heavener form of n and o changed in England in the course of the 5th Century.  If Anglo-Saxon, certainly, the inscription should date before 500 A.D.–at least derived from that style-period.

The celebrated navigator/linguist Paul Chapman (ESOP 1987), despite a forward facing aesc, transliterated retrograde: LADEMONG (I would say LAEDEMONG), unfooled into a complicated novel reading of the standard old futhark characters. Assuming them Norse, he recognized a closer relationship to Old English laeden, “to lead”, than to the Old Icelandic lada  (modern Icelandic leida) or the Danish lede.  Norse lada, Chapman found, alternatively means “to invite” or “bid.”  Mang = “barter.”  Whereby the word would mean something like “Come barter” or “Trading Post.” 

Dr. Barry Fell (Saga America, 1980) strangely read the O as R and the word as Gnrmedaedt, unwontedly baffled as to meaning.

At least four of the Heavener-region runestones lie in a straight NW/SE line, Gloria perceived, lending credence to the small runic specimens as boundary markers; Donal Buchanan realized they could read in a rune-looking non-Norse Mediterranean script; as such, Donal said: it didn’t work well, Donal says, and the letters are probably Anglo-Saxon.  The Warner Stone, e.g., found December 1972 by a boy of Warner, OK, in a field near Dirty Creek, an Arkansas tributary, between Warner and Muskogee in east-central Oklahoma, (Farley, ESOP, 1976) consists of three characters,

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of which only the X corresponds to futhark or futhork runes (in SW Iberic it would be T), but they could read OCHS in Greek or QATTA in Libyan.  The Poteau Runestone, which Wes Thomas relocated in February 1959, after seeing it 45 years before on a ledge c.10 miles north of the Heavener specimen, higher on the same Poteau Mt., shares the first three characters, the fifth, and sixth (aesc) with the Heavener inscription, also perhaps the seventh, an L in forward, instead of reverse position, and “stung” with an added little cross-stroke.  The word seemingly reads GNOIEAELD–which sounds Norse or Anglo-Saxon enough. Fell transliterated the triangular final letter th (later so, but d on the 5th Century Thames knife and Charney brooch) and the unusual next-to-last ambiguous, j, so came out with GNNGIEAEJTH.

The approximate dozen rune inscriptions Gloria Farley tracked from the Arkansas side of the Arkansas River, west perhaps 200 miles, include an elegantly-carved one at the highest elevation of Tulsa (a city the Arkansas bisects), one on a hillside boulder near the North and South Canadian confluence 75 miles west of Heavener, (the joined pair flow into the Arkansas c.30 miles west of Ft. Smith, where the Poteau River, which runs near Heavener, meets the Arkansas), and the Shawnee Stone, which Jim Estep found buried face-down in August, 1969, by a small branch of the North Canadian, 125 miles WNW of Heavener. Charles King reported having seen another runic inscription 200 miles west of Heavener in an area where a similar inscription was known;  Gloria has been able to relocate these two, which ignorant homesteaders may have destroyed as they did to many verified artifacts. Often buried or lichen-covered, inscriptions are anyway hard to find; Gloria stands along in her uncanny spotting knack.

The red Permian-sandstone Shawnee specimen reads in unequivocal futhark: MYRDOC, with the same form of M, and 5th-or-pre-5th-Century O as the Heavener Runestone.  Myrdoc might be the name of a man buried beneath or, as Chapman discerned, an unnamed man murdered there; myrda in Old Icelandic means “to conceal a murdered body,” (ESOP, 1987). Dr. Fell a little freely read MADOK, (American Saga, 1980).  (The Shawnee and Poteau stones repose in Kerr Museum, Poteau, OK).

The Vanga inscription of Sweden presents the earliest runic specimen Monge, and his co-author O.G. Landsverk, knew of by 1969.  It reads retrograde HAECOTHUR, which they construed “30 Nov., 1008” but whose early-futhark Heavener form of os (O) together with retrograde order, dates much earlier.  We note both aesc and os in common with the Heavener inscription and angle C (cen orcaon) with the Shawnee.  The Byfield, MA., runes in the same style read NIOIC, N and O in common with Heavener, C in common with Shawnee, and peculiar 9 for I (14th Century S) in common with Poteau and Tulsa.  Contriving the date 2 Dec, 1022, Monge diagnosed two strange Tulsa runes 1 binary, reading the total seven GISASKISSI, his double S two different forms, 4 –not a confusion of early and late alphabets, both forms among the earliest.  Tulsa anomalies apart, the Heavener sequence so nearly matches Byfield in style that Gloria Farley thought the same hand-carved both a year apart.

Recurrent runestones in pre-Viking style that employ a few forms disused in Scandinavia and Britain during the 5h Century, plus a persisting few whose vocalization later changed, confirms an extensive presence along the Arkansas and Canadian waterway of early-centuries-A.D. north-Europeans unrecorded in Europe and forgotten in American lore.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION:

 

 

oldwestmag

Old West Magazine – Were Vikings in Oklahoma? Their Calling cards exist RUNESTONES and TOMBSTONES

Written by Bernice and Jack McGee incredible 14 page article with many photos and sites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heavener RS

 

The Heavener Runestone

Gloria Stewart Farley

Several page softcover in Like New condition.

 

 

 

 

 

Old News DVD

 

Old News DVD: Ancient Celtic Ogham, Mithras Worship & Archaeoastronomical Solar Alignments on the Equinoxes

Who was in Oklahoma and Colorado 1,500+ years ago carving Ogam into rocks, and worshipping Mithras? Incredibly important work presented on DVD and case in Like New condition. Distributed in 2005, 85 minutes in length.  We are hoping to offer new copies for sale in due time.  Please visit www.archaeoastronomy.com  for amazing information or http://onter.net/story.html  for a preview of the video.

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENT FROM GEORGE 9/3/14:

 

I visited the runestone in the late ’90s and purchased this book.  In Plain Sight: Old World Records in Ancient America,   by Gloria Farley Columbus, GA : ISAC Press, 1994. ISBN: 978-1880820087.  I recommend it to people interested in this subject.  I was going to post this in the comments section, but I can’t make the registration process work for me, so I’m sending it to you instead.  The Wikipedia article <https://en.wikipedia.org wiki/Heavener_Runestone_State_Park> states they are having budget problems.  Here is an article with an official look to it: <http://www.stateparks.com/heavenerrunestone.html> which includes photos.


inplainsight

In Plain Sight – Old World Records in Ancient America

Gloria Farley

What ancient groups carved the Anubis Cave light shows and inscriptions in Oklahoma as well as the other sites in neighboring towns and states in the midwest? Gloria Farley’s amazing work and contributions to ancient America are tremendous.  Hardcover and dust jacket in Very Good condition, 2nd printing 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

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