Thursday, June 7, 2012

Runestone Museum- Alexandria, Minnesota

That is a picture of Big Ole,  he was created to accompany the Kensington Runestone to the New York World's Fair in 1965. He is holding a sign which declares that Alexandria is the birthplace of America. There may be a kernel of truth in that statement. In 1898 at Kensington,  a town 20 miles southeast of Alexandria, a runestone was found  with strange symbols inscribed on it. A runestone is any stone inscribed with runic writing (a kind of Viking alphabet).  The stone is 31 inches tall and weights 202 pounds. The runes tell of a tragic story of Viking men who, at the end of a fishing journey, discovered the bodies of ten men covered with blood. The date of 1362 is noted on the stone. The farmer who discovered the runestone found it embedded in the roots of an aspen tree. Once he showed it to others he became the laughing stock of the town and many people believed it to be a hoax. We saw the runestone in the museum and watched several short films explaining the research which has been done on the stone since its discovery.  Men with backgrounds in linguistics, Norwegian history and geology have studied the stone. The weathering of the stone has been researched, as well as the authenticity of the runes. The language on the stone seemed to be authentic medieval Scandinavian language. In 2011 digital color imaging was used on the stone to further analyze the letters and numbers.  Preliminary results of all the research have been quite positive for the authenticity of the stone (so noted in The Kensington Runestone FAQ Book written by Michael Zalar). . Viking artifacts have been found dating to the medieval ages-  in Minnesota as well as in North Dakota. They are on display in the museum.  The museum has a lot more to it besides the runestone.  It has artifacts connected with the history of Minnesota- wildlife and Native American exhibits as well. There is also a replica of the old Fort Alexandria stockade outside the museum where old historic buildings can be toured. Before we headed our car toward home we stopped at Inspiration Peak, which is the highest point in the Alexandria glacial moraine. Sinclair Lewis describes this spot quite well: "from its bald top there is to be seen a glorious 20-mile circle of some 50 lakes scattered among fields and pastures like sequins on an old paisley shawl".

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