Medieval Gothic Graffiti from the Crimea.

Exciting news for anyone interested in either the Gothic language or the history of the Crimean Goths: five (brief) examples of Gothic graffiti have been found on the cornice of a basilica and dated to the 9th-10th centuries. The paper is Андрей Юрьевич Виноградов, Максим Игоревич Коробов, «Готские граффити из Мангупской базилики» [Andrei Vinogradov and Maksim Korobov, “Gothic graffiti from the Mangup basilica”], Средние века 76 (2015) № 3-4: 57-75 (the longest graffito is reproduced on p. 64, the others on later pages); since the paper is in Russian, I’ll summarize their conclusions here for those who don’t read it:

1) The existence of the Gothic language in the Crimean mountains in the 9th-10th centuries is confirmed, used side by side with Greek.
2) The Gothic language was written in Crimea and used for both quotation of biblical texts and private invocations and commemorations.
3) It was not used only by clerics.
4) This find represents the first proof of the use of Wulfila’s alphabet outside Italy and Pannonia, as well as of its use for practical purposes after the 6th century.
5) The quotation from the Psalms shows the acquaintance of the Crimean Goths with Wulfila’s Bible.
6) The liturgical texts are evidence of local church services in Gothic.
7) At least in the early Byzantine period, the Crimean Goths were part of the Gothic cultural world, and thus linked with the Goths of the Lower Danube region.
8) There is no apparent distinction between the language of the inscriptions and the previously known examples of Gothic.
9) The writing appears to be that of a learned scribe.
10) The epigraphic culture appears to be close to that of the local Byzantine culture.
11) Local Goths used both Byzantine and Gothic names.
12) There was a developed local viticulture.

Comments

  1. The author’s name is very appropriate (Slavic *vinogordъ is a loan from Gothic).

    There’s one thing, however, that makes me wary. The language of the graffiti is absolutely Wulfilan, as if nothing had happened to Gothic between the 4th century and the 9th (by contrast to every other Germanic language), and as if Crimean Ostrogothic had not differed the leetlest bit from Wulfila’s Moesian Visigothic. Frankly, it looks too Gothic to be true. I hope the researchers have taken every precaution to rule out a modern hoax. Remember the Kensington Runestone.

  2. Ooh, that’s a troubling possibility, and I’m equally troubled by the fact that it hadn’t occurred to me. Is this the first symptom of elderly credulity? Am I soon going to start eagerly accepting invitations from people who want to help me guarantee a comfortable retirement by signing my house over to them?

  3. The author’s name is very appropriate
    And виноградарь is mentioned in one of the fragments. Or is it another red flag for the possible hoax?
    I didn’t read the paper attentively, but it seems that the only things found are religious. Maybe it was the point, to copy precisely the sacred texts and ritual formulas? Like people reciting the Lord’s prayer in exactly KJV version word for word.

  4. marie-lucie says:

    Why copy the textual fragments on the “cornice” in the basilica? Which part of the church would they be seen from, closely enough to be read? Who would benefit from seeing them written? I think D.O. and Piotr have the right ideas: the language would have changed (or even been largely abandoned as a spoken language) in the centuries since Wulfila but the sacred texts needed to be recited precisely.

  5. That’s always a possibility. However, a scribe writing in Wulfilan Gothic doesn’t necessarily mean that the spoken language then and there was Wulfilan, just that it was the standard written language for Gothic. corresponding to Byzantine Greek or Classical Latin. Similarly, Old English and even Late Modern English have had unnaturally long lives due to their standardosity.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    JC, that’s my interpretation too, but I wonder if the authors of the article have considered the possible implications of the location of the graffiti. It is not as if the textual fragments had shown up on parchment or birch bark or other non-fixed support. In European tradition, graffiti often show up in strange places, but they rarely consist of sacred text fragments written in an obviously practiced hand.

  7. Marie-Lucie, I’ve heard (but cannot claim with any certainty) it is not unusual practice for Orthodox church builders to inscribe texts addressed to the higher power inside the building itself. Cornice seems to be a very appealing spot, because it is closer to the addressee. It is also a possibility that illiterate people who built the church asked a professional to include their prayers. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that the stone was repurposed from a previous building.

  8. F[rauja] hilp skalkis thein[is] [I]o[h]anja weinag[ardjin] jah frawaurt[is]

    Lord, help your servant Iohannes, the winemaker, the sinner.

    That’s quite natural thing to write on church building.

    Psalm 77, though, looks unusual.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    THank you both!

  10. Maybe it was the point, to copy precisely the sacred texts and ritual formulas? Like people reciting the Lord’s prayer in exactly KJV version word for word.

    Maybe. But do they imitate faithfully the original orthography of the Authorised Version? And note that the non-Biblical fragments are also written in Wulfilan Gothic — 500 years after Wulfila.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    As I understood it there’s Greek grafiti on the same stones, and the Gothic fragments have been overlooked as rabble.

    I was going to remark that the similarity with Wulfila’s Gothic would seem to suggest that the vowel digraphs stood for actual diphtongs, but I agree that continuous scribal tradition is more likely. Or copying, ancient or old. Are there texts here that are not lifted directly form Wulfila (as apparently implied by ponit 2)?

  12. Trond Engen says:

    Are there words here that …

  13. The surviving parts of Wulfila’s translation do not include the Psalms. The fragment quoted in the inscription is Psalm 77 (Greek 76):14-15.

  14. As far as I can see, all the words are “lifted from Wulfila” with the exception of the (partly reconstructed) *weinag[ardja].

  15. marie-lucie says:

    If only the words are from Wulfila, does it mean that the sentence structure is different, or some details of morphology? Using the KJV analogy, many people occasionally try to write “Biblical” sounding English but get mixed up about older morphology, such as the -th suffix or the verb forms to be used with thou, even though they might correctly use the verb to smite or the noun meat in its original meaning of ‘food’.

  16. From the article, p. 75, re the psalm quotation:

    Надпись полностью соответствует научной реконструкции готского перевода этого фрагмента, выполненной по греческому тексту Септуагинты

    “The inscription is fully consistent with the scientific reconstruction of the Gothic translation of this fragment based on the Greek text of the Septuagint.”

    The rest is grammatical too, by Wulfilan standards.

  17. Dativ case of name Iohannes should be Iohannes, Iohannis, Iohannins, but here it is Ioanja which is unusual.

    Perhaps the name Iohannes changed its form to Ioanjis in nominative.

  18. You mean the genitive. But then the reading of the name is highly uncertain. Something akin to IOHANNES (in the genitive) is reconstructed on the basis of AN (even the preceding O is inferred rather than legible).

  19. Why copy the textual fragments on the “cornice” in the basilica? Which part of the church would they be seen from, closely enough to be read?

    The cornice had fallen and was being used as a bench (if I remember correctly).

  20. Trond Engen says:

    Me: copying, ancient or old

    Heh. I didn’t mean that, but I like it.

    The twelve points above are all cultural and historical rather than linguistic. That’s certainly interesting, if genuine, but it refelcts that linguistically there’s very little here if all the words are present in Wulfila in the same contexts and the same written form. It could still be promising. For one thing, if they now start turning every stone, there might be more to come. For another, if the language actually was used for church services within mainstream Orthodox Christianity of the Byzantine empire, there should be traces of it in an archive somewhere.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Oh. From Wikipedia on the bishops of Doros:

    The first extant medieval record which confirms that the Gothic language was still spoken in “Gothia” is the Vita of Saint Cyril, Apostle to the Slavs (also known as Constantine the Philosopher) who went to Crimea to preach the gospel to the Khazars in c. 850. He lists “Goths” as people who read and praised the Christian God “in their own language”

  22. David Marjanović says:

    The photos show that the graffiti are quite badly preserved. Wouldn’t that be hard to fake?

    One difference to Biblical Gothic is mentioned, -rt- instead of -rht-; too bad the sample size isn’t larger…

  23. David Marjanović says:
  24. marie-lucie says:

    David: Very interesting article on the KRS.

    Some people had thought that “English words” in the text were evidence of forgery. Surely a bilingual, not very literate American forger inventing a supposedly medieval Scandinavian inscription would not include modern English words in it, especially words like prepositions, for which using modern Scandinavian equivalents would have been more likely.

  25. Very interesting indeed!

    Finally, recent geological studies by Scott Wolter have shown that the weathering of the KRS inscription indicates at least 200 years of exposure before its discovery in 1898. If so Ohman (or any other alleged nineteenth-century hoaxer) could not have incised the inscription, and dating it before 1700 reduces the opportunity, means, and motive for such a hoax to the vanishing point. … The KRS will have to be accepted as a genuine fourteenth-century document, and its odd words and phrases will eventually be added to dictionaries of medieval Scandinavian. … The perceived “linguistic problems” disappear when we recognize that the. KRS is an early Middle Scandinavian document, not the Old Norse text Breda and others expected it to be.

    Seems pretty convincing.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    The most amazing clue to the KRS is the tale transmitted by the old Dakota woman about her ancestors meeting Europeans generations ago.

  27. Weathering a stone artificially is quite straightforward, so that is no evidence at all.

  28. One difference to Biblical Gothic is mentioned, -rt- instead of -rht-; too bad the sample size isn’t larger

    As noted in the article (p. 71), this particular simplification occurs also in the Biblical Gothic corpus (Codex Ambrosianus B), as does the hypercorrect insertion of h in (ga)waurhtai.

    I hope the inscriptions are authentic and that more will be found. The survival of Wulfilan Gothic till ca. 900 would not have been possible without access to some Gothic Bible copies and presumably a system of formal education to enable the transmission of literary Gothic for tens of generations. How wonderful, if true!

    But this sounds like a fairy tale. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  29. I have read the article and am still not convinced that the thing is Middle or Early Modern Scandinavian. As Wikipedia puts it,
    Similarly, the inscription text does not use the plural verb forms that were common in the 14th century and have only recently disappeared: for example, (plural forms in parenthesis) “wi war” (wörum), “hathe” (höfuðum), “[wi] fiske” (fiskaðum), “kom” (komum), “fann” (funnum) and “wi hathe” (hafdum).

  30. @David,

    Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I tend to take John Bengtson’s claims with a grain of salt. Besides, would you expect a Minnesota Scandinavian to doubt the authenticity of the Stone?

  31. Trond Engen says:

    What year is that Bengtson paper from? Eyeing through I seem to have read most of it before.

    The Dakota woman’s story seems to have been conceived at a time when people imagined a medieval Scandinavian expedition vessel to have a dragonhead.

  32. The “horned headpieces” seem a little suspicious too.

  33. Trond Engen says:

    Even more so. I didn’t even read the whole paragraph, just ceased on the giveaway in the first sentence.

  34. Trond Engen says:

    Of course, runestones at that time are almost as anachronistic as dragonheads. There was an attempt a few years back to turn this, and even the anachronistic features of the language, into a virue: Such a hodgepodge couldn’t possibly be anything but a deliberate attempt by early medieval Scandinavians to reconnect with their proud history in Vinland. I can subscribe to all of that except “medieval”.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, and I too really hope the Gothic inscriptions are genuine, But I’m wary of that hope. So t also hope there’s a way to know. IIf there really are similar fragments with long known Greek texts, found on the same stones or at least in the immediate proximity and on the same type of rock, it should be informative to compare the weathering.

  36. Scott Wolter, Bengtson’s geological expert, is also of the opinion that several alleged American runesones (including the KRS) were carved by emissaries of the Knights Templar, who regularly sailed over to the New World long before Columbus, and who by the way still clandensinely rule the world. Wolter’s “recent geological studies” do not seem to have been published anywhere, and the book by Nielsen & Wolter (2005) was published by something called “Outernet Publishing”.

  37. Sigh. Too good to be true, I guess.

  38. David and other hatters: I do not believe in the authenticity of the KRS. There exists only one confirmed pre-colombian Viking settlement in North America,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Anse_aux_Meadows

    and, tellingly, no rune stone, indeed no runic writing whatsoever, on any medium, has been found nearby, neither on the island of Newfoundland nor indeed anywhere North of the Great Lakes.

    In this connection one should bear in mind that, whereas Minnesota received huge numbers of Scandinavian immigrants, practically none found their way to Newfoundland or Quebec, and only modest numbers to Ontario.

    So: the KRS is far away from any authentic archeological signs of Viking settlement, and located in the one State of the Union with the highest number of inhabitants of Scandinavian origin. This makes it likely enough, to my mind, that the KRS indeed is a forgery created by Scandinavian migrants.

    Finally, one thing I must point out: Robert Hall was a linguist who strongly believed in the KRS’s authenticity. But Robert Hall was a specialist in Romance linguistics, not in Germanic, runology or any pertinent field, and I am thus quite at a loss to understand why his opinion on the KRS should be given any more weight than some randomly selected passerby’s.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    Too bad!

    As for the Knights Templars, the idea that they went underground (not literally) by making voyages to the Americas crops up from time to time. Somewhere in Nova Scotia there are some mysterious or perhaps just unusual rock formations which some (non-archeologists) think are ruins dating from medieval times, and that the local native mythological hero Glooscap was actually a Scottish prince connected with the Templars. Somewhere there is also a connection with the “Holy Grail”. A few years ago I read a locally published book which was reviewed very favourably in the local newspaper. Among other pieces of “evidence” for the Templar connection with Nova Scotia the author made much of an old map in which there were annotations apparently in Latin. He wrote about his efforts to decipher the “mix of French and Latin” on the map, apparently without even thinking of asking people knowing the languages for help. As a result, he interpreted the Latin word “seu” ‘or’ as the old French word “sieur” ‘sire, lord’, which he took as referring to the Scottish “lord” of an area in Nova Scotia.

  40. As far as the authenticity of the Gothic inscriptions go, it’s a somewhat encouraging sign that this grew out of an international research project (King’s College’s ‘Ancient Inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea’). This is a context in which, one would hope, an outright fake might be somewhat more difficult to pull off or escape notice.

    http://iospe.kcl.ac.uk/5.193.html

  41. King’s College’s ‘Ancient Inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea’

    Yes, this was also mentioned in an interview with Vinogradov I have read. For the record, far be it from me to suggest that Vinogradov himself might have forged the Gothic inscriptions. But they really look too good to be true, so extreme caution should be applied.

    This reminds me of the Fibula Praenestina inscription. We still don’t know for sure if it’s authentic. In recent decades arguments against its authenticity seemed overwhelming, but chemical analyses conducted by Formigli and Ferro a few years ago allegedly demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that not only the fibula but also the engraved inscription was genuinely old. On the other hand, though the “vindication” was announced in 2011, the promised publication in a special issue of the Bullettino di Paletnologia Italiana (with a critical discussion) does not seem to have materialised. In fact, the Bulettino hasn’t published anything since 2010. So, as far as I’m concerned, the news that the inscription is authentic remains hearsay, and my tentative personal verdict based on what I’ve seen so far is “a fake”.

    Of course in some cases documents suspected (on reasonable grounds) of having been forged have turned out to be authentic. The Tale of Igor’s Campaign is perhaps the most spectacular example. It’s a pity that the original manuscript has been lost and cannot be dated with modern methods, but evidence accumulated since the 1950s and new analyses (comparison with the language of the Old Novgorod birch-bark letters, textual comparison with Zadonshchina) practically rule out a 18th-century forgery.

  42. My understanding of the Praeneste fibula is that both the spelling FH for [f] and the use of an interpunct after the reduplicant (FHE:FHAKED) are orthographic features which were not known at the time of the discovery (or putative forgery) but have been parallelled in other inscriptions since, which would make forgery very unlikely. Is this incorrect?

  43. As far as I know, FH for /f/ is unique to the FHibula. However, it looks like it originally read VH and was corrected during the engraving.

    What wasn’t known at the time, in the sense of being documented by inscriptions, was NUMASIOI for Numerio. But r/s alternation was certainly known, if not fully understood.

  44. Are there any convincing examples of fh for Old Latin [f] other than the Fibula inscription? A similar use of an interpunct after a reduplicant is found just once, in Faliscan pe:para[i], whose reading as a reduplicated perfect is not completely secure.

    Anyway, I have just found that the promised volume of the Bulettino has just appeared. Unfortunately, the paywall is high:

    http://www.arborsapientiae.com/libro/18245/bullettino-di-paletnologia-italiana-vol-99-2015-numero-monografico-dedicato-alla-fibula-prenestina.html

    … so I’ll wait for experts’ comments.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    I have read the article and am still not convinced that the thing is Middle or Early Modern Scandinavian. As Wikipedia puts it,

    That’s actually addressed in the article (or I wouldn’t have posted the link at all): the plural endings were already occasionally dropped in Middle Swedish. The combination of this innovation, which is used at every opportunity on the KRS, with various archaisms is still suspicious, though.

    As noted in the article (p. 71), this particular simplification occurs also in the Biblical Gothic corpus (Codex Ambrosianus B), as does the hypercorrect insertion of h in (ga)waurhtai.

    Ah. I just skimmed that section.

    Besides, would you expect a Minnesota Scandinavian to doubt the authenticity of the Stone?

    Frankly, yes, if he’s a scientist.

    What year is that Bengtson paper from?

    2003 or so?

    The “horned headpieces” seem a little suspicious too.

    Very much so!

    Of course, runestones at that time are almost as anachronistic as dragonheads.

    Well, not necessarily. Runes were still in just enough use that people may have thought that if they were going to write on stone, runes would be the default option. At the same time, they were uncommon enough that none of the expedition members had ever done this before, explaining the use of gh where the simple g rune would have sufficed (from gh in contemporary Latin-letter Swedish writing on parchment) and completely unetymological h to mark long vowels (from German), as well as perhaps the inconsistent mix of rune shapes that otherwise don’t occur together in the same century.

    But even so, it’s perhaps too good to be true when a guy named Öhman finds a stone where “island” is spelled öh.

    Scott Wolter, Bengtson’s geological expert, is also of the opinion that […]

    Oh wow. He’s measurable on the Timecube scale!

    So: the KRS is far away from any authentic archeological signs of Viking settlement, and located in the one State of the Union with the highest number of inhabitants of Scandinavian origin. This makes it likely enough, to my mind, that the KRS indeed is a forgery created by Scandinavian migrants.

    What I don’t get is why anyone like this would want to fake the presence of boring 14th-century Christians instead of 11th-century Vikings.

    Paletnologia

    I had to read this twice; it looks like a typo 🙂

  46. @David Marjanović: Timecube transcends measurement scales.

  47. But even so, it’s perhaps too good to be true when a guy named Öhman finds a stone where “island” is spelled öh.

    What about a guy named Vinogradov finding a graffiti where Gothic wingardja makes a unique appearance?

    What I don’t get is why anyone like this would want to fake the presence of boring 14th-century Christians instead of 11th-century Vikings.

    Usucaption? They discovered the New World ca. 1000 and kept it long enough to claim full title.

  48. Greenland is part of New World too and it was inhabited by Scandinavians much longer than 300 years.

  49. In recent decades arguments against its authenticity seemed overwhelming, but chemical analyses conducted by Formigli and Ferro a few years ago allegedly demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that not only the fibula but also the engraved inscription was genuinely old.

    I have no expertise upon which to judge these results for the fibula, but though the writing support is of quite a different nature, in general this reminds me of the case of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife in the news earlier this year, and a thought I had then. Since it seems that at least some of the time the dating methods of materials science produce results that conflict with the conclusions of philological analyses, I wondered if really no one has ever undertaken a control study, using a large number of manuscripts, papyri, etc., of relatively secure dates, to see what range(s) of accuracy we can reasonably expect such non-textual methods to provide. Does anyone know?

  50. David Marjanović says:

    Timecube transcends measurement scales.

    It’s 1.0 on a logarithmic scale of Internet delusions. 🙂

    What about a guy named Vinogradov finding a graffiti where Gothic wingardja makes a unique appearance?

    I suppose we’ll see…

    Usucaption? They discovered the New World ca. 1000 and kept it long enough to claim full title.

    But the stone doesn’t claim continuous occupation, quite the opposite.

    A link for anyone interested in the KRS authenticity debate:

    Nice!

    On the one hand, it doesn’t address the claim that the obvious anachronism opþagelsefarþ – both the word and the very concept would be several hundred years too early – should be interpreted as optagelse-, “acquisition, taking up” (Bengtson p. 9, citing Nielsen 1987). Perhaps that would work as a hypercorrection from the time when [þ] was merging into [tʰ]. (There’s no misreading involved; the photo on Wikipedia shows a crisp, unambiguous þ, not a t.) But “acquisition, taking up” isn’t easy to interpret in the context of the rest of the text: “taking up” lost Greenlanders?

    On the other hand, the photo on badarchaeology.com raises an obvious question: who cut the stone? The inscribed side wall can’t possibly be a natural break. Did there just so happen to be a stonemason in the expedition…?

  51. David Marjanović says:

    A stonemason and his set of tools, that is.

    “Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational stonemason…”

  52. I had to read this twice; it looks like a typo

    Same here!

  53. Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational stonemason…

    Awesome.

  54. David Marjanović says:

    Same here!

    Too bad the Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia isn’t a bollettino.

  55. When it comes to masons, stone or otherwise, the word is operative. Indeed, there is a society of Masons who are interested in operative masonry, it seems, though they don’t actually get involved with hod and trowel themselves; for one thing, getting mortar on the distinctive tie would be a Bad Thing.

  56. David Marjanović says:

    Well, that would explain everything.

    🙂

  57. Unfortunately yes, it does. And you know what that means.

  58. On FH for [f] in the Praeneste fibula, my memory of what Michael Weiss told us at a seminar at Berkeley last year (I’m on vacation without my notes) is that, though early Etruscan inscriptions use this spelling, its value as [f] was not known at the time the fibula was discovered in the late 19C but was only established later. If this is true, its use on the putative forger’s part would be a pretty lucky guess (and similarly for the interpunct).

  59. marie-lucie says:

    Piotr: Thank you very much for the link to the KRS article. Very interesting, and the long line of comments even more so! It seems impossible to conclude one way or another about the authenticity of the stone, but Mr Öhman was most likely innocent of forgery if forgery there was.

    About the obvious anachronism opþagelsefarþ : this word (or part of it) is given as a calque of French découvrir, glossed as ‘to discover’ in the approximate sense of ‘come across unexpectedly, suddenly learn’. The word does have this meaning, but also the more literal one of to uncover (= remove the cover of), especially as a past participle or adjective (découver(e)) and in the “pronominal” se découvrir ‘to take off some of one’s clothes’, as in the well-known ditty about seasonal weather:

    En avril,
    Ne te découvre pas d’un fil;
    En mai,
    Fais ce qu’il te plaît.

    In April, do not remove a single thread (of your clothing);
    In May, do as you like.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Oops, découvert(e) .

  61. Trond Engen says:

    marie-lucie: It seems impossible to conclude one way or another about the authenticity of the stone,

    I don’t agree. You can never completely rule out a singularity, but the combination of highly unlikely misspellings, weird dialect mixture, unrecorded royal support, etc. is evidence beyond doubt. The fact (new to me, or maybe I had forgotten it) that Holand discovered the year much later is another giveway. It does seem out of place in the text.

    All evidence for its authenticity is highly dubious, and there’s no context or corraborating evidence whatsoever.

    but Mr Öhman was most likely innocent of forgery if forgery there was.

    I don’t know. His relatives certainly think so, but he may have regretted when he saw the reactions. Holand, though, was a fraudster.

    opþagelsefarþ : this word (or part of it) is given as a calque of French découvrir, glossed as ‘to discover’ in the approximate sense of ‘come across unexpectedly, suddenly learn’

    Oppdagelse is not technichally a calque of découvrir. That would be avdekke or English uncover. I think the argument is about its use for ‘the great discoveries’ rather than e.g. detective work. Early Norwegian detective stories contain the word ‘opdagelsesbetjent’ (“discovery constable”) for what would now be an ‘etterforsker’ (roughly “after-(re)searcher”). And of course, there are more problems with the word than that.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    And you know what that means.

    Yes. It means this is all too easy, and we urgently need to bring in the Illuminati and Area 51. No Such Agency will ever

  63. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: Obviously you are in a better position than I am to evaluate the claims. I did not read just the article, I read all the (many) comments too, pros, cons and crazies.

    unrecorded royal support : I don’t remember this. What is it about?

    Mr Öhman innocent … – His relatives certainly think so, but he may have regretted when he saw the reactions

    There seems to be general agreement that the stone was under the roots of a tree. probably hidden under dirt too. This would mean that it had been there for a number of years. It does not seem likely that a fraudster would hide the evidence for years if he wanted it to be found eventually. Also, if Öhman did find, transport and shape the stone and later carved the inscription, while running a farm under less than ideal conditions, it is difficult to think that he did all this alone, in complete secrecy. And later he refused to benefit financially from the find. All this suggests that someone else took advantage of him in some way, for some unknown but deleterious purpose.

    Anyway, the topic is very entertaining, a real detective story!

  64. Trond Engen says:

    marie-lucie: Obviously you are in a better position than I am to evaluate the claims. I did not read just the article, I read all the (many) comments too, pros, cons and crazies.

    Yeah, well. I’m no linguist, nor a historian, but the claims have been of a type that even I have been able to tear apart. First it was supposed to be Båhuslen dialect (the coastal region north of Gothenburg, still Norwegian back then). That don’t work. Later it was said to be from Gotland. That’s even stranger.

    Maybe I’ll sift through the comments. It’s a few years since I last looked into this, and, frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to read through that comment thread now.

    Royal support: An expedition of the kind this is supposed to be would have been an official undertaking. Nothing is recorded of it anywhere. Things do get lost and forgotten, so it’s unlikely rather than imposssible. But how many unlikelihoods can you heap upon eachother and still claim plausibility?

    the stone was under the roots of a tree. probably hidden under dirt too

    Or not. There’s an early geologist saying otherwise. What we have is a collection of witness reports that can’t be taken at face value. Not necessarily because they lied, but because a) the reports were taken up much later, sfter the story had been told over and over again, and b) they never saw any reason to doubt what they were told or shown in the first place. There was a lot of pride in the Viking heritage and wishful thinking among Scandinavians in America.

  65. Trond Engen says:

    how many unlikelihoods can you heap upon eachother and still claim plausibility?

    Actually, you can’t even heap likelyhoods upon eachother for long and still claim plausibility.

  66. marie-lucie says:

    Tak!

  67. marie-lucie says:

    When I read earlier about the old Dakota lady and her traditional story I thought it was a point in favour of the claim, but thinking about it later there was one red flag: the description of the boats with dragon heads. Surely the large, impressive ocean-going ships (like the onesI saw in the Oslo museum) would not have been the ones used in the interior in the continent, so that meant that the story had been passed on by people who had heard of those ships and perhaps seen pictures of them, from the settlers, not from contacts with members of the alleged medieval expedition.

  68. Trond Engen says:

    Of course the Dakota lady’s story is only corroborating evidence and as such not important for the main argument. But using it as an argument adds another feather to Bengtson’s tinfoil hat.

  69. David Eddyshaw says:

    The horned helmets are really a dead giveaway; they’re a myth, even for actual Vikings (who were more likely to wear tinfoil hats.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Age_arms_and_armour#Helmet

  70. Selling Genuine Viking Tinfoil Hats might be a nice sideline.

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    The idea that a monoglot Dakota-speaking lady could not possibly either have made up or even transmitted an entertaining fable of preColumbian Vikings is really just noble-savagism at best or unconscious racism at worst.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    so that meant that the story had been passed on by people who had heard of those ships and perhaps seen pictures of them, from the settlers, not from contacts with members of the alleged medieval expedition.

    Sure. The horned helmets are as diagnostic as the petroglyphs of 1950s-style dinosaurs that various creationists have faked.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    People who make petroglyphs of dinosaurs do so because they have a) heard about dinosaurs and b) seen reconstructed pictures of what they looked like. The images they make do nor prove that those people or their ancestors have actually encountered dinosaurs (even though that is what they are trying to imply), only that they had a mental concept and visual representation of them.

    It is unlikely that the Dakota lady’s story was her own total invention. First of all, native peoples take their history very seriously and telling historical episodes (even if some of those are legendary rather than historical) is not a joking matter. There are other genres where jokes do have their place, in fact a prominent one. Contacts with “the white man” (traders and missionaries before settlers) and helping them adapt (eg with canoes and portages) were well established by the mid 19th century. Second, some of the details could not be invented. How would she, or any of her people, have imagined boats with dragon heads? (horned helmets would not be entirely surprising since there is documented evidence, such as paintings, that prairie people on the hunt often camouflaged themselves with pelts and heads of horned animals). So she must have seen some drawings of those boats and helmets, even though she could not have actually seen such things herself. If she did not see such drawings herself, perhaps her children or other people had. There must have been some contact between the Scandinavian settlers and the local people, and a rumour that Scandinavian ancestors had made it to America in the past (inspiring someone to carve the stone as “proof”, just as in the dinosaur case). Put those elements together and an episode in which the native people showed their skill and their generosity toward Scandinavian travellers in the past could have made its way with a few embellishments into local native history.

    I don’t mean to suggest that the initial contact was in 1362 or thereabouts (although I confess that it did seem like a possibility before I thought a little more about it).

  74. David Marjanović says:

    Exactly.

  75. Marja Erwin says:

    For example, actual therapods didn’t have kangaroo-like postures, so petrogyphs of therapodian dinosaurs with kangaroo-like postures are depictions of inaccurate depictions, not depictions of actual living animals out of their time.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    JC: “I will tell him what it says.”

    And where did “it” get its information? from other tribal elders.

  77. Oh, sure. The information the young man is getting isn’t wrong, it just won’t get him a Ph.D. Though it might of course be wrong for all that: the semi-mythical Ancestors of the Boas Totem was by no means infallible, in which case what the chief knows about the roots of his own culture is also wrong. But plenty of us have beliefs which are quite false too even though we have read them in books.

    There is another story about an early primate researcher in a mansion house that had been repurposed as a lab, where one way to watch the subjects was through one of the old keyholes. This was fine, until one day a researcher who happened to be a chimp had their eye against the opposite side of the keyhole.

  78. But plenty of us have beliefs which are quite false too even though we have read them in books.

    For “plenty” read “all.”

  79. Well. Some of us (humans, not Hattics) can’t read.

  80. A hit, a palpable hit! I bow and surrender my paper knife, hilt first.

  81. Nay, I nobbut won by chance.

  82. subjects — or maybe it artists vs critics. Tage Danielsson, 1964:

    Apan som tänkte i flera led

    Det var en stor apa som hette King Kong som blev infångad i mörkaste Afrika av ett gäng huvudläkare. Huvudläkarna förde med sig King Kong till sitt psykologiska laboratorium i Massachusetts. Där satte de in King Kong i en specialkonstruerad bur, i vilken det låg två stora träklossar, en båtshake samt en lång stång, som var en meter längre än båtshaken. En av väggarna i buren var en alldeles slät kraftig trävägg, i vilken på fem meters höjd fanns en lucka med trälock på gångjärn.
      Nu hade Huvudläkarna med hjälp av matematiskpsykologiska tabeller räknat ut att om King Kong begrep att han kunde ta den långa stången och med hjälp av den fälla upp träluckan uppe på väggen, därefter ställa den ena klossen på den andra under luckan, kliva upp på klossarna, haka fast båtshaken i luckans underkant, klättra uppför båtshaken och på så sätt ta sig ut ur buren – ja då skulle det därmed vara bevisat att en apa av King Kongs typ kan tänka i flera led, vilket det skulle vara roligt för alla psykologer i hela världen att få reda på.

    *

    King Kong lät hakan falla ner så han såg ovanligt enfaldig ut. Han tog en av klossarna och kastade upp den i luften. När den föll ner med en duns klappade han förtjust i handhänderna och hoppade omkring lite på fothänderna. Sen tog han båtshaken och krafsade sig vällustigt på ryggen med den en stund. När han tröttnat på detta förehavande grep han tag i den långa stången, stack ut den genom gallret och kittlade den allvarligaste av de tio allvarliga psykologerna i magen med den. Stormförtjust ställde han sig därefter på huvudet på den andra klossen och klappade i alla fyra händerna samt utstötte gutturala läten.
      ”Det var en jävla dum apa”, sa de tio experimentella psykologerna och gick ut ur rummet.
      Så snart de var utom synhåll tog King Kong den långa stången och fällde med hjälp av den upp träluckan uppe på väggen, ställde så den ena klossen ovanpå den andra under luckan, klev upp på klossarna, hakade fast båtshaken i luckans underkant, klättrade vig som den apa han var uppför båtshaken, tog sig ut ur buren och lämnade i fyrsprång den experimentalpsykologiska institutionen, som ingen av de experimentella psykologerna brytt sig om att låsa.
      ”Det var ena jävla dumma experimentella psykologer”, sa King Kong för sig själv.
      Så tog sig King Kong med hjälp av sitt goda huvud tillbaka till mörkaste Afrika, där han i lugn och ro tänkte vidare på sin teori om det krökta rummet, som han fått idén till en dag när en banan föll ned i huvudet på King Kong.

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