Vikings in Kentucky: the myth of the Brandenburg Stone

“Toward strength, divide the land we are spread over, purely between offspring in wisdom”

We have all heard the stories of ancient Vikings being the first to navigate the open seas. These Norse men were some of the first non-native people to visit the Americas. Once the reached our shores the did not stop exploring. They would take their longboats and travel the rivers inland. They traveled the mighty Mississippi and the Ohio. There has been evidence of since Columbus landed in the Caribbean. That is why it is all the more exciting that Meade County can lend its own discovery to Vikings in America.

Craig Crecelius made a curious discovery in 1912, while plowing his field in Meade County, KY. He had unearthed a limestone slab that had strange symbols chiseled onto the rock face. Knowing that he had made an important historical find, he sought information about the origins of the stone from the academics. In the mid-1960’s, he allowed Jon Whitfield, a former trustee of the Meade County, Kentucky Library, to display the stone in the Brandenburg Library. This could very well have been the end of the story, had it not been for the observant Mr. Whitfield. Whitfield attended a meeting of the Ancient Kentucke Historical Society (AKHS) and saw slides of other, similar-looking carved stones. He learned that the carvings were a script called Coelbren, used by the ancient Welsh. Whitfield was informed that similar stones had been widely found across the south-central part of the U.S. Pictures made of the Brandenburg Stone were submitted to two Welsh historians helping the AKHS in deciphering the scripts.

Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett, specialists in the study of the Coelbren script in Wales, immediately were able to read the script. The translation is intriguing; it appears that the stone may possibly have been a property or boundary marker: “Toward strength, divide the land we are spread over, purely between offspring in wisdom.”

It is also worth mentioning that the Vikings stopped raiding and began working with the Welsh as early as 1098. Whales, England, and Ireland would have also been optimal locations for them to launch their ships to explore the open seas. Since there was not any uniformity to written language in those days, it is entirely plausible that these Viking explorers would have written in Colebren.

Modern History of the stone

1912 – Craig Crecelius found the stone while farming a field in Paradise Bottom in Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky near the Ohio River. This is 40 miles west of the Falls of the Ohio. He took the stone around to local fairs for 53 years. It was in this time that it was broken into three pieces.

1965 – Jon Whitfield (a former trustee at Meade County Library) took possession of the stone.

1973 – The stone was put into storage at the Brandenburg Library after some archaeologists examined it and said the marks were natural scratches.

1995 – The stone was moved to the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center in Clarksville, Indiana where it was put into storage.

1998 – New studies were preformed on the stone. Alan Wilson and Bram Blackett, who are professional historians with the Arthurian Research Foundation in Cardiff, Wales, translated the writing from the Welsh language of Coelbren. According to them the stone reads: “Toward strength (to promote unity), divide the land we are spread over, purely (or justly) between offspring in wisdom.”

1999 – The Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center decided to put the Brandenburg Stone on display as part of their Myths and Legends exhibit.

2000 – The stone was moved to the Charlestown Library in Charlestown, Indiana and is on display in the Indiana Room. It is on loan from the Meade County Library in Brandenburg, Kentucky.

January 2012 – Stone was returned to Meade County.

There have been 55 stones with similar markings on them found in numerous states

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