Saturday, July 21, 2018


Noman's Land Island Rune
Stone, Massachusetts.

Every so often, here in North America, we run into an inscription on a stone that is claimed to be done in authentic Viking runes and proves that they were here hundreds of years before the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. The most famous of these, of course, is the Kensington Rune Stone. This column is about a stone on an island off of Martha's Vineyard, the Noman's Land Rune Stone.

Noman's Land Island, off southern
tip of Martha's Vineyard,
Image: Google Earth.

The small, uninhabited island called Noman's Land is about three miles off of the southwest corner of Martha's Vineyard. It was previously owned by the U.S. Navy which used it for a bombing range (unexploded ordnance is believed to remain there). It has been owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1975, and is now used as a wildlife refuge, primarily for migratory birds. (Hickey 2007)

"In 1602, during the British ship Concord's exploration of Cape Cod, Captain Bartholomew Gosnold named Nomans Land "Martha's Vineyard" after his eldest daughter, Martha. However, the name was later transferred to the larger island currently known as Martha's Vinyard, which is located northeast of Nomans Land. The island was probably named "Nomans Land" after a Martha's Vineyard Wampanoag sachem, Tequenoman, who had jurisdiction over the island when the English came in the early 17th century: named from TequeNoman's Land." (Wikipedia)

The stone is reportedly located a little way off of the beach of the island and is usually obscured by water but is apparently exposed at low tide.

Closeup of the inscription,
Noman's Land Island Rune
Stone, Massachusetts.

"Joshua Crane, the former owner of Noman's Land, first discovered the strange lettering on the large black rock late one afternoon when the setting sun sank low on the horizon on afternoon in 1926. Mr. Crane took the oldest known photographs of the inscription in 1926, which were published in a book by Edward Gray titled Leif Eriksson, Discoverer of America." (Hickey 2007)

Gray "sent his photos to some experts at Oslo University. What the professors came back with was certainly interesting - and had the potential to throw three centuries of accepted history on its head. Once deciphered the text read, "Liif Iriksson, MI." (Berke 2015) In this text, the MI is taken to be the Roman numerals for 1001 (the supposed year of the inscription). This mixing of runes and Latin script was known in Britain after AD 700 (where Anglo-Saxon runes and Latin numerals were sometimes used together). "The characters were generally replaced by the Latin alphabet as the cultures that had used runes underwent Christianization, by approximately 700 AD in central Europe and 1100 AD in northern Europe." (Wikipedia) This suggests that it would be contradictory for an authentic Northman's Viking inscription from the year 1001 to contain a Latin notation, and since none of the records seem to suggest that Leif Ericsson's expedition included Anglo-Saxons, that would seem to settle it.

"The stone was later examined by E. B. Delbarre in the New England Quarterly in 1935 and again by Hjamar P. Holland in the same publication in 1944, both of whom dismissed the rock as a hoax." (Hickey 2007)

If one plugs the name Leif Ericson into a modern English to Runic translator, the results come back fairly convincingly like the inscription with slight differences for the different spelling (it actually translates to Liif Iriksson as noted above). This would be close enough to convince me - if the ancient Vikings of a thousand years ago had spelled their words the same way that we do in modern English. Different languages do not always share all of the same sounds and pronunciations. This, in itself, would be enough to make me suspicious of any supposed Runic inscription that translates so handily into English.

Of course, now that we know of L'anse aux Meadows and other possibly Viking sites in North America there is much less of a motive to have to believe in dubious inscriptions to prove the early Viking presence. In this case, I fear I have to classify myself with the doubters and proclaim the Noman's Land Rune Stone a hoax.


Berke, Jeremy
2015 Object of Intrigue: The Possibly Viking Runestone of Massachusetts,

Hickey, Jim
2007 Revisiting Viking Myth on Island, Noman's Expedition Is Planned, The Vineyard Gazette, Edgartown

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