In Heavener, Oklahoma stands a slab stone measuring twelve feet high, ten feet wide and sixteen inches thick with eight pecked runic characters feature -The Heavener Runestone. In the 1830’s Choctaw Indians saw the runic characters but could not read them because they were not Indian inscriptions. The 8 runes are in a straight line and about 6 to 9 inches high. Most Oklahoma residents saw the writing in the early 1800’s and suspecting it was an Indian word, they named the huge stone “Indian Rock.”
The rock is located in what is now known as the Heavener Runestone State Park and the government constructed a structure around it to protect it. To date, not only is the meaning of the letters questioned but also the authenticity of the huge rock is debated. Some interpretations indicate that the stone may have been used to symbolize property because it has the name �G.Nomedal” a Norwegian family name. Others interpret the inscriptions to read “Valley of Glome” or “Glomesdal” and believe that the name refers to an ancient Viking explorer. Another interpretation reads “Valley of the Gnomes” or “Glonesdal.”Gnomes refer to small mythical animals that ancient Norse believe existed. Nevertheless the gorgeous ravine where the slab is located does in several ways resemble places that ancient Vikings believed Gnomes lived.
Recent research on the Heavener Runestone indicates that it may be about 400 years older than it was first thought. Previous interpretation showed that it could have been discovered on 11th November 1012.But it now appears that, it was not a date, but a boundary sign that was made as early as six hundred A.D.
According to local history the Runestone was first discovered by Choctaw Indians who were on a hunting party in the 1830’s. The residents of the area called the odd rock the “Indian Rock”. But it was not until 1923 when Carl F. Kemmere sent a copy of the characters on the stone to the Smithsonian institution that the letters were identified as runic.
The Poteau Mountain where it sits was given the name by French trappers. The mountain was part of an Indian Territory that was handed over to the Choctaw Community when they were ejected from Mississippi to present Oklahoma. Europeans first began settling in the region in the 1870’s.According to a statement signed by Wilson king’s son he saw the stone before 1874, but the earliest eyewitnesses on record was Luther Capps who saw the stone in 1898.
The huge stone known as the Heavener Runestone is now the focal point of a National park In Oklahoma. And to insinuate that the story of Vikings round ancient Oklahoma is controversial would be an understatement. Scientists do not consider the �Indian rock’ as an authentic artifact of the Viking period. Other people however, strongly believe that the carving is over 1000 years old.
World attention was first drawn to the mysterious rock several decades ago by Mrs. Gloria Farley. Her relentless belief turned what was a mere stone into the high point of a state park. Runestone was a little known artifact until Mrs. Farley turned her childhood passion into a lifetime study. She heard of the odd inscriptions on the rock and arranged for a guide to take her to the stone. After deep consultations with ancient languages students, Mrs. Gloria was convinced that the Heavener Runestone was left behind by Norse explorers.
She first visited the stone in 1928 as a little girl and then returned in 1951, fully determined to solve all the mysteries surrounding it. Her study and that of other students she helped bring to the site, was mainly aimed at proving that the Vikings inscribed the Heavener Runestone in the eleventh century. A Smithsonian institution identified the 8 carved letters as Scandinavian and interpreted them as “Gnomedal” meaning sundial or a monument valley. However in 1986 a scholar from the University of Denmark Dr. Richard Nielson translated the characters as “GLOMEDAL”, meaning the Glome’s Valley.
Mrs. Farley one of the leading diffusionists of her time, went on to write a book explaining different theories about the slab and other odd carvings around the region. She believed that the characters on the Heavener Runestone could be interpreted as “Valley of Glome.”They theorized that Glome was a Viking explorer who claimed the ravine several centuries ago.
Is the Heavener Runestone an ancient relic or a Hoax?
That question still remains unanswered to date. Some rune scholars believe that characters were created sometime in the 20th or 19th century. They claim that the Rune letters used on the rock, known as Elder Futhark became obsolete several years before the Vikings travelled to the region and definitely before the first ever voyage of the Vikings came to North America. They also claim that only 6 of the eight inscriptions are symbols of the Elder Futhark. These points plus the fact that no other verifiable artifacts have been found on the site makes a strong argument that the characters were not made by Viking explorers.
On the other hand individuals who believe that the stone is an authentic ancient relic claim that 2 other smaller rocks have been found in the area with runic characters. They also ask that if it was not a Viking explorer that made the characters then who else. With references going back to the 18th century, they point out that no one else would have known the runic alphabet by then and no one else had a reason to leave the characters on the rock.
And as far as the misspellings on the carvings are concerned Richard Nielsen had a very strong theory. Nielsen claims that the last letter which is misspelled was done accidentally, by the Viking. For the other symbol that was misspelled, he points that the explorer substituted it with a character from Gothic alphabet. So if what he points out is true the inscriptions would read “Glomedal” which means Valley of Glome.
Nonetheless it is everyone’s hope that the mystery surrounding the Heavener Runestone will be solved soon. May be discoveries will be made that will either prove it was ancient Vikings that made the inscriptions or dismiss it as a hoax.
Authentic or not, Farley’s dedication to preserving the mysterious feature subsequently protected Poteau Mountain’s cliffs, and the Forest cover around it and the park is now popular for its sunsets and hiking as much as it is for its supposed Viking history. The Runestone was incorporated into a state park in 1970.But citing financial constraints, the state recently passed ownership of the site to the municipality of Heavener.
Located in the Poteau Mountains, the area was once home to camels, dinosaurs, miniature horses and saber toothed cats. Today the forests surrounding the historical site are filled with seven species of oak, dogwood, elms, mockernut and small furry friends all beautifying the ridge. The area is also home to different types of birds including the tufted titmouse, the dark eyed junco and the distinctive scissor tailed flycatcher.
Whatever the truth is about the cultural artifact, it is a unique and special cultural feature that magnifies a great deal of mystique to the great mountain. In addition to the stone, the Heavener Runestone features, a paved sidewalk and nature trails that lead down through the ravine into a shelter that protects the picnic areas, the carvings and amazing beautiful waterfalls.
The day use only park offers picnic tables, outdoor grills, picnic shelters, amphitheater, playground, comfort stations, hiking, educational programs about the rock and exploring. If you are a fan of overnight camping, you can head to the nearby Lake Wister Park.it offers, a gift shop, a park office and an interpretative center with educational info about the area. The municipality hopes to expand the great park to offer RV slots and additional campgrounds.