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“Messages in Stone:” Scholars to Examine Heavener Runestone, Lecture

Live web stream begins Oct. 4, 2010 at 7 p.m.

Two visiting scholars to Northeastern State University in October will conduct a field examination of the Heavener Runestone and also lecture on the significance of runes as potential artifacts indicating European contact pre-dating Columbus.

Dr. Henrik Williams from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and Dr. Richard Nielsen of Houston, will visit NSU on Oct. 3-4 as part of Williams’ lecture tour of the United States to explore rune sites and visit with scholars. In addition to NSU, William’s 14-site national tour will include lectures at Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley; UCLA; the University of Minnesota; Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.; and Ohio State University.

The public presentation, “Messages in Stone: Runes and Runic Inscriptions,” will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4, in the Webb Auditorium on the NSU Tahlequah campus. It is free and open to the public.

They will provide an historical, cultural, social and linguistic perspective on runes and runic writing and their importance to Americans. Audience members will learn about the history of runes and runic writing, view examples of runic writing from 400 to 1900, and hear how information on rune stones and runic inscriptions is being documented and preserved.

Preceding the lecture, on Sunday, Williams and Nielsen will lead a field trip to the Heavener Runestone State Park with the assistance of the Oklahoma State Parks service. The Runestone was first noted by Native Americans in the 1830s and reported by trappers in the 1870s. In 1986 it was Nielsen who provided the initial translation that the runes could be a land claim. This will be the first viewing of the Heavener Runestone by Dr. Williams.

As part of their excursion they also will participate in a guided tour of the nearby Spiro Mounds. They are the city remnants of an important trading post of the Caddoan Mississippian Culture of Native Americans who lived in much of the Mississippi and Arkansas river basin at the time that a Scandinavian explorer might have been in the river valley.

Dr. Williams, who is one of just a dozen runic scholars in the world, is a professor in Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University. He is primarily a philologist, teaching and doing research in Runology, Old Swedish, and Old Icelandic, but he is also interested in names, both on persons and on places. He has published a book on the language on Swedish rune stones from the Viking age, an edition of the Old Swedish romance “Hærra Ivan,” and major articles on the conversion of Sweden to Christianity.

He is the president of the Icelandic Society, the co-editor of a new scholarly journal “Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies,” and the director of the Uppsala Runic Forum. He has authored numerous scholarly papers in both Swedish and English. Uppsala University is an international center for runic studies and home to the Scandinavian Runic Text Data Base, which is overseen by Professor Williams.

Dr. Nielsen has been researching the Kensington Rune Stone (KRS), discovered in 1889 in Alexandria, Minn., for the past three decades here and abroad and has been collaborating with Williams since 2002. His interests have also led him to conduct translation research on other Runes found in North America in an attempt to determine their authenticity.

Nielsen earned a Doctorate of Technology from the University of Denmark, Copenhagen, a Master of Arts in Applied Mathematics and a Master of Science in Engineering in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, both from the University of Michigan. He is a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy and served as an officer in the Coast Guard for 14 years. He lives in Houston, Texas.

In their public presentation, Williams and Nielsen will present up-to-date information on the latest credible research regarding rune stones, with a focus on the Kensington Rune Stone, discovered in Kensington, Minn., over a century ago. Results of some of the latest findings using a state-of-the-art 3D Imaging process, identical to the research technique employed by scholars who studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, will be shared. New information and counter evidence will be provided to correct some of the recent unfounded and often sensational claims and unscientific conjecture promoted on television and in print regarding rune stones and runic inscriptions found in North America.

Ideas for future study will be shared, with an emphasis on the promotion of international academic exchanges, research collaboration, and the revitalization of the study of Runology in the United States.

The program is supported by the NSU Office of Continuing Education, American Association for Runic Studies and partially funded by the Swedish Council of America.

Published: 10/4/2010 6:36:12 PM

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