3The AVM Runestone
The Kensington Runestone has been one of the biggest and most hotly debated archaeological finds in U.S. history. Discovered by a Swedish farmer named Olof Ohman in 1898 in Minnesota, the runestone is written in an ancient Viking language and suggests that medieval Swedish settlers lived in Minnesota centuries before Columbus made his voyage.
We know what you're thinking. This article is about archaeological hoaxes, and this is a story about a guy who happened to be Swedish "finding" an ancient Swedish artifact just lying around. Bullshit, right?
Minnesota was a hell of a long way to travel just to carve "VIkiNGs WaZ HeRE" into the landscape.
Actually, no. Despite the coincidences, Ohman was not responsible for the runestone, and its authenticity continues to be debated.
Instead, we're focusing on the second runestone that turned up over a hundred years later in the same area. In 2001, a professional stone carver named Janey Westin found what came to be called the AVM stone, another rock covered in Viking runes that everyone figured was proof of the Kensington stone's authenticity.
We still know what you're thinking. A professional stone carver just happened to stumble upon an amazing artifact that happened to be a carved stone. Bullshit?
Haha, no. Amazingly, Westin is also legit.
But Wait ...
Oh, but the runestones are still bullshit.
In the case of the AVM stone, what really happened was far more embarrassing. A museum run by runestone experts was fooled by the cunning skills of a few spring breakers.
And to think we wasted our time forging IDs.
Like all college students, Germanic philology majors Kari Ellen Gade and Jana Schulman were looking for a good time during their time off; unlike all college students, they thought carving Norse invocations on a big-ass rock made for a crazy night. Drunk on knowledge, they invited their friends to get "totally hammered," broke out the chiseling supplies and headed to a field to reenact Girls Gone Wild: Archaeological Hoax Edition.
Swedish National Heritage Board
Check out those boulders!
When they owned up to their hilarious pranking years later, Gade and Schulman said they'd been conducting a little experiment to prove how gullible those Kensington folks were, and it totally worked.
As for the original Kensington stone? Scholars are starting to think that's probably also fake.
2The Tiara of Saitaphernes
As any cultured individual will tell you, the Louvre is one of the world's most respected museums, so it would be safe to assume its collections are bullshit-free. In addition to housing things like the Mona Lisa and that armless statue, they also adopted a mint-condition third century crown from a Greek colony near Russia in 1896, scoring big when less French places like the Imperial Court and British Museum passed on it for some weird reason. The Louvre, assuming these dumbasses had made a huge mistake, immediately rushed in to claim it in the name of their proud nation. After analyzing it for a total time of "Fuck it, why bother?" hours, their leading experts tossed 200,000 francs at the tiara's owner, put it on display and toasted each other for their genius decision-making skills.
"No one will ever make fun of us now!"
But Wait ...
But no one else was congratulating the museum on their awesome deal, mostly because the world was too busy laughing in their faces. Among the people waiting in line to spit on France's dreams was Adolf Furtwangler, a specialist of Greek archaeology and professor from Germany, who found this flawless tiara business to be kind of suspicious. When he called it out as a hoax, the Louvre responded in the extremely mature manner you'd expect from a world-class institution: by crying "RACIST!" and telling the press how this German guy was a baguette-hating, uncouth dick.
Also, we're pretty sure "Furtwangler" translates to "sausage wrestler."
But aside from being covered in obvious traces from modern tools and soldering, there was also the problem of the ancient third century artifact not looking the tiniest bit disheveled after so many centuries supposedly spent in a crumbling cave.
So where did the tiara actually come from? It was made by a Russian guy named Israel Rouchomovski, whose buddy had asked him to whip up a fresh fake antiquity "as a gift for an archaeologist friend."
You can make a fake Taj Mahal this way if you have a spare hot air balloon.
Once Rouchomovski proved his tiara-faking skills, the Louvre finally fessed up to their error. The embarrassing crown was hidden away in a back room and spoken of only in hushed tones of total humiliation for years, until they decided that putting it on display in the 1954 Salon of Fakes exhibit was the best way to save face.
It's a dumb tiara anyway. Hand us our glitter glue.