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Kensington Runestone authenticity testing also used on Dead Sea Scrolls

Bill Mongon, president of Accurex, a dimensional measurement systems corporation, performed a state-of-the-art 3D imaging map test on the Kensington Runestone last Thursday at the Kensington Runestone Museum. staff photo by Celeste Beam.

If all the previous research, testing, poking and prodding hasn't convinced the naysayers that the Kensington Runestone is genuine, then perhaps the newest form of testing will.

At least that is the hope of Dr. Richard Nielsen, a linguistic expert who has been studying the stone for years and is in charge of the new project.

Nielsen, along with Scott Wolter, a geologist and petrographer from St. Paul, published a book, The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence, a few years ago.

The newest testing, a state-of-the-art 3D imaging project mapping the Kensington Runestone, was conducted last Thursday at the Runestone Museum.

Supervised by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the relief mapping of the stone was performed by Bill Mongon, president of Accurex, a dimensional measurement systems corporation.

This 3D imaging, according to experts, provides researchers with a new tool to assess the authenticity of the artifact.

Other relief mapping has been made of other historical artifacts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Mongon used high-definition, high-resolution laser technology to produce a relief map of the Runestone, making it possible for the first time to accurately record and subsequently investigate a range of markings on the stone, according to Nielsen.

"This is not a regular photograph of the stone," said Nielsen. "This is looking at every nook and cranny on the stone, every punch mark that may never have been cleaned out and still has the original mud.

"We are seeing something different than we have ever seen before. We now have 3D pictures of the Kensington Runestone," he added.

Nielsen explained that with the 3D imaging, the color and contrast of stone could be changed and that with a photo, people are stuck with what they get.

"A new day is dawning for the Kensington Runestone," Nielsen exclaimed. "We know that the stone has been looked at, but it has never been studied or researched this thoroughly."

The Kensington Runestone was unearthed in 1898 by Olof Ohman on his farm near Kensington. Arguments over the authenticity of the stone - whether it was carved by Viking explorers or is an elaborate hoax - have divided experts for more than 100 years.

In recent years, research of the stone particularly focused on the runes, or the letters, that were chiseled into the large rock. The interpretation tells a narrative of 30 Swedish and Norwegian explorers in the year 1362.

Recent research attempted to authenticate whether the stone is genuine by comparing its runes to the voluminous runic records in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, according to Nielsen.

He noted that the 3D imaging is intended to bring clarity to punch and chisel marks and compare them to the writing techniques employed to create contemporary runic records found in Scandinavian countries.

To a specialist in interpreting runes, a written language employed by Scandinavians for more than a millennium, the 3D images will be far superior to any photographs currently available of the runes.

Nielsen has spent more than two decades engaged in research in an attempt to interpret the runes and language on the Kensington Runestone and other runes found on the Atlantic coast, including the Spirit Pond Rune Stones in Maine.

Recent linguistic evidence published in Sweden confirms that the language forms on the stone could have occurred in 1362 Old Swedish.

"The 3D images will show the full contours that can be shadowed from any direction, which will become a permanent record. This record can be read by any Kensington Runestone investigator who wants to download them to a personal computer," said Nielsen. "It's remarkable to think that 110 years after the discovery of the stone, we are now blessed with a high technology solution to determine more clearly than ever what runic details of importance are actually carved on the stone."

Results of the research will be published on a Web site beginning in 2009 and will then be followed by a series of scholarly papers.