MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Norse runes found on a rock near Kensington, Minn., apparently were the work of University of Minnesota graduate students, not Norse explorers in 1363.
Two of the students who participated in the 1985 prank say they and three friends perpetrated the hoax to cast doubt on the Kensington Runestone, which was discovered in 1898 and has been a subject of controversy since.
The runes on the Kensington stone read: "Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on a journey of exploration from Vinland very far west. We had camp by two rocky islands one day's journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. After we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save from evil. Have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships fourteen days' journey from this island. Year 1362."
Kari Ellen Gade, who chairs the Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, and Jana K. Schulman, an associate professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University, said they helped carve runes on a rock on an island near Kensington as a study to determine if people would think the find was genuine.
Gade, Schulman and three other members of a seminar on runic inscriptions concluded the Kensington Runestone was a fake.
The five used a hammer, a chisel and a copy of the alphabet used on the Kensington Runestone to carve "AVM," standing for Ave Maria, "ALM," a reference to Jesus Christ, and the year 1363.
Geologist Scott Wolter, who was called in to examine the find and who is convinced the Kensington Runestone is authentic, told UPI he was extremely puzzled about the AVM stone until he heard about the hoax.
"When we saw this thing, it looked good. We treated it like a legitimate artifact," said Wolter, who is among the experts examining the debris from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. "We thought maybe it was a gravestone" for the 10 dead men mentioned on the Kensington Runestone.
He said as his examination progressed, "there were specific points that bothered me. The news helped me understand."
Before he learned of the prank, Wolter said he was trying to determine whether the stone was 639 years old or 108 years old and was at the point of concluding his findings were inconclusive. It was thought that a determination would help bolster arguments over the Kensington Runestone.
Janey Westin, a Minneapolis artist, found the AVM stone in May. The find was publicized in August. That's when Gade and Schulman notified the Minnesota Historical Society, outlining their role.
Westin told Tuesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune she's upset about the prank, saying she had spent weeks and hundreds of dollars to transport it to a safe place for storage.
"I could have been putting my energy into my work, where it belonged," Westin said.