SHSU Viking Society Makes Discoveries


The Sam Houston State University Society for Norse History and Culture (informally called the Viking Society) made a unique discovery April 12 on the organization’s first research expedition in Heavener, Okla.

The group, led by German professor and Viking Society adviser James Frankii and accompanied by runologist Richard Nielson, a long-time expert on runic inscriptions in North America, traveled to Heavener to examine the Heavener Rune Stone.

Nielson has also studied runic inscriptions in Gotland Sweden and is the author of several books and other publications on the rune stones in America.

Runes are letters of the runic alphabets, used by Norsemen in the late Viking Age.

Several discoveries were made on the trip, some by Frankii and Nielson. They noticed that on a picture of the rune was spacing on the stone that could be an indication of word markings, where there previously were thought to be none.

“When we got there, we were looking for spacing on two different places on the stone. But we found a couple of areas on the stone which could be indications of another chisel mark that was never seen,” said Frankii.

The new findings could possibly change the whole interpretation of the stone, according to Frankii.

“One of the older interpretations of the stone was ‘Glome’s Valley. Dr. Nielson and I believe that the ‘e’, the fifth rune, is the preposition ‘in’ or ‘from’, and that we can read the inscription as Glom from Dalen, where Dalen is a region in the southeastern part of Sweden,” said Frankii.

“Compound names like this were common in the Middle Ages and are still found today. Another possibility is to read it as ‘Glom from the valley.”

The students discovered markings elsewhere on the stone that had been unnoticed as well, but the stone is enclosed in a case and can’t be seen or studied closely without permission from the park where it is located.

The Viking Society is planning another trip to Heavener to further investigate these findings. On the next trip, the organization plans to use 3-D imaging equipment to better clarify their findings.

“You actually place the imaging equipment behind the stone,” Frankii said. “It gets rid of all the weathering on the front of the stone and can determine whether there is a chisel mark or not. It will show up absolutely clear, like an X-ray.”

The Heavener Rune Stone has eight definite runes and hasn’t been very closely studied before now. But what has been found was that the runes inscription indicates there were vikings in Oklahoma around the ninth century, according to Frankii.

Eight members of the organization participated in the expedition, including president Lara McCain, vice president Benjamin Finn, secretary Justin Tyree, Maekela West, Ryan Immke, Tiffany Butcher, Jason Wallace, and Stuart Caldwell.

The purpose of the trip was to acquaint students with Viking artifacts in this country and to conduct research on the stone.

The Viking Society began mid-semester this spring and is dedicated to promoting awareness of Scandinavian history and culture from the Viking Age.

Members gather on a regular basis to discuss literature from the Viking Age, explore the behavior and culture of the Scandinavian peoples and their impact on the rest of the world, recreate cuisines of the Norse world, and, if funds permit, go on field trips.

For more information about the Viking Society and related courses offered at SHSU, contact Frankii at or 832.316.0685.



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SHSU Media Contacts: Raegan Castillo
May 8, 2009
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