Gonzo Science: Skeptics of the Kensington Runestone: The “Berg-AVM Runestone” Fiasco
Written By: Jim Richardson and Allen Richardson
In a privately circulated memo (11/05/01), Hanson detailed the features of the “Berg-AVM Runestone” that gave it away as a hoax: “Obvious red flags are the fact that the Berg-AVM stone was found well below the 1,370 foot elevation level (so that it would have been underwater in 1363), it was also noted that the pyrite weathering features indicate a recent date since pyrite oxidizes quite rapidly to soluble ferrous sulfate. Indicators of great age which ARE present on the (Kensington Runestone) are not present on the Berg-AVM stone.”
However, the woman who was promoting the authenticity of the AVM stone did not know any of this until it was too late. As Hanson explains in A Defense of Olof Ohman, the very people who could have helped her were not allowed to: “Bob Berg and his associates were prevented from even inspecting the (AVM) stone after it was ‘found’ as was this author (Hanson). … Lessons from the Berg-AVM fiasco might (include) … try not to exclude people who might be helpful to the investigation. … Bob Berg and others were ignored or intentionally excluded from the process.”
The results were predictable, because the Berg-AVM stone was soon revealed as a hoax. From Hanson’s book: “In September, 2001 two former University of Minnesota graduate students signed a letter … claiming that they were part of a group of five students who committed the hoax in 1985.”
Why did these Ph.D. candidates commit such a hoax? Hanson explains: “The five students were in a graduate level class, taught at the University of Minnesota, in which they determined that the nearby Kensington (Runestone) was a fraud. Their idea was to demonstrate how gullible and naïve people were who thought the (Kensington Runestone) was authentic.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune story of November 6, 2001 quoted one of the Berg-AVM stone hoaxers, Dr. Kari Ellen Gade. Now a professor of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, she was asked about the basis of her belief that the Kensington Runestone is a hoax like the one she committed. "All serious scholarship has drawn that conclusion," Gade said.
But as Hanson noted in his memo, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has not done the Kensington Rune stone research community any favors with its propensity to: “quot(e) people as experts (on the Kensington Runestone) because of their job description and without establishing the fact that they are indeed authoritative. In fact several of the past interviewees (about the Kensington Runestone) could not support their opinions with referenceable data. The reporter of course has failed in the past to ask for evidence or data which would support the ‘expert’ opinion, they have simply printed it.”
This did not satisfy Hanson, whose book painstakingly examines every word ever written about the Kensington Runestone by the so-called experts.
Hanson suspected that Dr. Gade – like the other “experts” - was unaware of recent developments in the study of the language of the Kensington Runestone. Issues like its authentic, rare “e” dialect have led to a revolution in understanding the artifact.
Hanson contacted Dr. Gade. He informed her of the recent linguistic developments and asked her some questions about the language of the Kensington Runestone, such as: if no expert in the world knew of the “e” dialect when the Kensington Runestone was discovered, how would an alleged hoaxer be able to get it on the stone?
She refused to answer.
Gonzo Science also contacted Dr. Gade. She refused to respond.
Is it possible that, as a professor of Germanic Language at a major University, Gade’s grad-student role in an irresponsible hoax was causing her some discomfort at work? Or was she beginning to realize that her conclusions about the Kensington Runestone were on shaky ground?
We may never know. Dr. Gade is laying low.
Recommended Reading: The two-volume Kensington Runestone: A Defense of Olof Ohman – the Accused Forger by Barry Hanson. Available at www.archaeologyitm.com or by mail for $43.90 ppd. from: Archaeology ITM, 3194 S. Smith Creek Road, Maple WI 54854.
Donations to aid in archaeological work at the stone ruins in western Minnesota may be sent to the same address. Make checks payable to Archaeology ITM.