Current KRS Issues by Lynn Brant

The Kensington Rune Stone has been a subject of great contention for over a hundred years. In order for the reader to understand where the debate is today, and form his own opinions, we want to briefly bring you up to date on the current issues. We have organized these in two categories, first those that stem from the recent objections from Richard Nielsen, who co-authored the most comprehensive book on the stone, “Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence.” Secondly, we will provide a thumbnail overview of a number of other “front burner” KRS issues.


The Objections of Richard Nielsen

When Scott Wolter and Dick Nielsen published their landmark book in 2005, Nielsen was completely on board with the book’s conclusions. In 2010, Nielsen published articles attempting to discredit Wolter’s geology, accused him of having permanently damaged the stone, and generally took positions diametrically opposite to those he held when they were working as partners. It is not our purpose here to delve into personal conflicts beyond describing the context for the published claims by Nielsen that are pertinent to the stone itself. We will explore two of those.

dotted R

The Dotted R

This rune appears to be the smoking gun that establishes the Kensington Rune Stone as a genuine medieval artifact. It was discovered only 6 years ago, and today is the subject of renewed controversy. We want to give the reader a basic overview of the current state of the issue, and you will find more detail elsewhere on this site.

When Scott Wolter and Dick Nielsen were working on the book, “Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence,” Wolter found the dotted R for the first time. Nielsen endorsed it completely and co-authored the book which declared it a major finding that further established the KRS as genuine. Soon after, the partners split and Wolter went on to author “The Hooked X,” and was the principal behind the feature length film, “Holy Grail in America,” shown on the History Channel.

During that time, Nielsen began writing a series of articles that reversed his position on many of the conclusions he had arrived at with Wolter. One of these was the dotted R, which Nielsen now claimed was either not there, or was accidentally (or even intentionally) added since the stone’s discovery. From his several articles on the subject, it appears that Nielsen has done some flip-flopping even since his recent rejection of the dotted R. At this juncture, we are unclear what his current position is. Is it that the medieval carver dropped a chisel on the stone and created the dot in the R? Or is it that someone after discovery dropped something? Another possibility still is that he is suggesting that it was done in recent times, and on purpose. Let’s take each of these in turn:

The notion that the stone’s medieval carver would have dropped his chisel in that exact spot is quite a stretch. But even if you want to accord some credence to that, you must consider how heavy that chisel must have been and from what height it must have been dropped to create that impression on a stone as hard as the KRS. With that in mind, the theory is impossible and absurd.

So perhaps Nielsen is claiming that the dot was added after discovery. There are two variations of that - first that it was an accident, and second that it was intentional fraud. If an accident the same problems outlined above still apply. Namely, that the odds of a tool being dropped in that spot are impossibly small, and that the tool or object would had to have been heavy, dropped from some height in order to have sufficient force, and had a sharp point which must have struck exactly at the right angle. Or, perhaps the dot was there all along and the carver accidentally carved an R around it? We’ll let the reader decide how likely either of those are.


Above are three pictures of the dot in the R taken at different points in history. On the right is the Stewart photo taken in 1899. In the center is the Harvey cast, made in 1937, only two years after a handful of European scholars had discovered the dotted R on other medieval inscriptions and determined that it was a valid medieval rune. It wasn’t until 1938, that any of that was published. On the left is a modern image of the dot in the R. So what are we to make of all this? Obviously the dot wasn’t added at any point in history, it was there all along. The only argument still available to Nielsen is that the dot was caused by accident when the medieval carver dropped a tool on the exact spot. Perhaps someone should conduct a small study to determine just how much weight dropped from what height would be needed to create a hole like this in a rock this hard. The answer is surely way beyond what would be feasible in an already bizarre accident scenario. As Swedish Runologist Henrik Williams has said, if the dotted R is man-made, it is proof that the KRS is a medieval artifact. If someone were hell-bent on derailing such a conclusion, one of their tasks would have to be to “get rid of” the dotted R. Again, we’ll let the reader decide whether this is what we are seeing in Nielsen’s articles and presentations.

Last fall, Nielsen used a slide in some presentations which is on the website titled, “Dropped Tool Mark in War (were) on 6th Line.” A photo of that slide was displayed here for you to see, but we were told it was being used without authorization and asked to remove it. One cannot help but wonder why there would be any objection to using the photo if the goal is really to test and debate the various theories and get to the truth about the KRS.

We’ve removed the photo but the subject is too important to be dropped (no pun intended). We’re going to tell you about the slide and give you an opportunity to see it for yourself. The slide is part of Nielsen’s argument that the dot in the R is not really man made because it is from a dropped tool. It displays two photos of the R with the dot and has bullet points stating that “the apparent dropped tool mark is shallow.” And “Evidence must be unambiguous.”

So, Dr. Nielsen is submitting a theory to the world that the mark you see on the right, with its obvious depth and conical shape not to mention perfect placement, was created by a dropped tool? It seems fantastic but let’s evaluate his thesis with his own criteria that evidence must be unambiguous. Is the evidence that this mark was caused by a dropped tool unambiguous? Is there any evidence for that at all beyond an idea Nielsen dreamed up? No, there is no evidence at all and saying that evidence must be dot30x 350unambiguous, in a presentation where you postulate a dropped tool mark, is rather like stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork.

In fact, this punch is 383 microns deep and almost perfectly shaped. The evidence is overwhelming, indeed unambiguous, that it was NOT caused by a dropped tool. It is man-made and intentional and as such, is conclusive proof that the KRS is genuine.

To see “The slide that Dick Nielsen doesn’t want you to see,” click here. Note that the two photos from the alleged 3D study are not nearly as clear as the simple 30x magnification you see here. Ask yourself why anyone would use such pictures if their goal was to clarify rather than obfuscate, and to seek the truth wherever it lies.

It may be that Mr. Nielsen is not striving for ambiguity, but if so he couldn’t do a better job of achieving it if he tried. And this flip-flopping and tortured reasoning regarding the dotted R isn’t all - there’s more! 

Groundline Theory

The theory that there is a ground line of some kind on the KRS was launched by Dick Nielsen in response to Wolter’s land claim theory. The KRS could not be a land claim because it had a ground line which meant that it had been upright and not buried. Or so the story went. Initially, the ground line was said to be a weathering ground line. Such ground lines are actually weathering ground "zones" (see tombstone photo at right) and happen when a stone is in the ground in the manner of a tombstone, with part above ground and exposed to the weather, and part below ground and unexposed. This creates differential weathering and the two parts will have a different look.


 Nielsen has erroneously or intentionally ignored this simple bit of geology and the physical makeup of a stone. Instead, he points to what is in fact a "stain", with drip marks, across the face and carved side of the rune stone. The stain first appears in a 1932 photograph of the KRS. Over time, the KRS was cleaned and the stain gradually faded over the years. In 1937, the stone was famously cleaned with "engine oil and ether." Pictures taken prior to 1932, and since 1937, do not show the stain.

Below left is the 1932 photo with the prominent stain and drip marks. On the right is the photo used by Nielsen (and incorrectly attributed to Wahlgren) to illustrate what he calls the weathering ground line. Note the poor quality of this picture. One wonders why a researcher would use such a poor photo when excellent ones were available and presumably the goal is to clarify rather than distort?

KRS_Circa_1932[1] 450wide
DN Wahlgren Pic sm

The photo above Shows the stain, but not clearly at all. But on the left you can plainly see the two drips. The two red lines on the photo used by Nielsen were added by him. One wonders why since the stain is not hard to locate. Let’s look at some close-ups of the drip area for clues.

Drip450   1932
DN Wahlgren Pic drip 450

Note the heart-shaped light feature on both photos with the light band going up and crossing the red line. The two drips are clear on the left photo and barely so on the right. But note that the red line passes directly over the large drip in Nielsen’s photo, almost obscuring it completely. Coincidence?

Nielsen used the stain, and one other bit of “evidence” in his ground line claim. He used the following two photos he attributed to Holand’s books of 1956 and 1962. Note that this is the same photograph from two different books.

DN Holand Pics 800wide

But what Nielsen doesn’t show the reader is the full page of the Holland book that this comes from. Here it is:

Holand1  800

Nielsen conveniently leaves off the image on the same page that clearly shows no such line.

Nielsen claims that this line is again, the ground line. However, it is not in the same location as the stain which he also purports to be the ground line.. Note that the top of the line that is less dark comes right to the bottom of the last row of runes. On the photo of the stain above, the top of the stain is further down. So if this is not the stain, what is it? Remember that this is one photo shown twice. The line is quite possibly a fold or other damage on an old photo print that was then copied.

Not surprisingly, when the ground line was disproven, Nielsen found another explanation. He now argues that the line is an abrasion line from when the stone sat upright in a stone holder. The wind, he says, blew it back and forth. Reminded that the wind doesn’t blow a 200lb stone and that there is no line on the back, the theory was modified into a falling tree pushing it forward. This is ridiculous and could never be replicated with a stone this hard.

The important thing for the reader to remember here is that what’s on an old photo doesn’t really matter. We have two different lines, both of which come and go. Hundred of KRS photos through the years show no such line on the stone. The handful that show either the stain or old damage to a negative or print appear to have been selected to persuade the reader there is any line at all.

So what are we to make of all this? Could Nielsen's unexplained reversal be related to personal issues? Or could it be due to Wolter’s success with his book, “The Hooked X,” and his History Channel films, “Holy Grail in America” and "Who Really Discovered America?" Whatever the reasons for the change in his opinions, it seems like Nielsen was hell-bent on attacking anything done by Wolter. One can’t help but notice the similarity in the way the dotted R and "ground line" claims were argued. In both cases, carefully selected photos were used and give a false perception, namely that the dotted R wasn’t there when it really was, and that the ground line was there when it really wasn’t. Then in both cases, when the flaws in those arguments were exposed, there was a desperate retreat to absurd fallback arguments - that the dot in the R was caused by a dropped tool, and that the stain was an abrasion line caused by a 200lb stone rocking back and forth in its cradle.