Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small]

to be rather a derivative from the name of one of the gods of the Algic mythology, than an adoption, by the natives, of the Icelandic noun “ Hop.” Besides, is it reconcilable with our experience of the dogged attachment of the Indians to their own terms, to suppose they had thus adopted a foreign name, and that too, from an enemy, whom they had fought and driven from their coast ?

We have examined cursorily, the several prints of the hieroglyphics on the so called “inscription rock” of Assonet.* We

* (This rock lies on the shore of “ Assonet Neck," so called, on the east side of Taunton River, in Massachusetts, and is more commonly known as the “ Dighton Writing Rock.” Of the inscriptions upon this rock drawings have been taken at different periods, several of which have been published in the Transactions of Scientific Societies in this country; one of the most recent of which is here given, copied from the Am. Antiquitates. Nine of these drawings, together with a picture of the rock itself, are contained in the volume here referred to.

Thut our readers may the better appreciate the force of Mr. Schoolcraft's remarks on this topic, we give below the translation of a letter from Mr. Magousen, Vice President of the Royal Society at Copenbagen ; (Antiquitates Americanae, p. 378-382.) This letter recognizes the opinion of the editor of the work, Prof. Rafn, and exhibits a brief synopsis of the reasons which have led the learned Society to a conclusion in regard to these inscriptions, which, we think, a more extended examination of the subject may induce them to change. It is as follows.-Ed.]

“ Your opinion concerning the inscription and the figures on the Assopet Rock I do not hesitate to approve. That they are in very deed Icelandic, and may be attributed to Thorfinn Karlsefo, I think is beyond all doubt. This, at first view, is demonstrated, as well by the Icelandic letter, Þ, woven in at the left hand of the spectator of the picture, appearing like the prow of a ship, as by the principal images eut in the rock. There are also many criteria, which may prove this even to those who are unacquainted with the inscriptions on stones in leeland, which, being unpublished, are to the present day nearly unknown to the literary world. These I will endeavor briefly to explajn and illustrate. 1. The characters : CXXXI

11 Y These demand no long explanation. They are, without doubt, numerals; but their united value, or signification, is especially remarkable, since this express number exactly corresponds with the number of men, who, according to the consider the first three representations of no historical value, unless it be to denote how the preconceived theories of men may lead them to distort facts, even where the data, if properly

history of Thorfinn Karlsefn, made their way, with him, to this region of North America, or rather to this station. In the 7th chapter of that celebrated history it is related, that the number of men who participated in his expedition was CXL; but a little after, in chapter 8th, it is stated that nine (IX) of them were lost in that bay denominated by the Icelanders (or Scandinavians) Straumfjoerd, they having sailed north ward, by the advice of Thorhall, a bunter, searching for Vineland in that quarter of the world. Thorfinn himself, with all the rest of his associates, proceeding towards the south or west, came to a place called Hóp, (Hópe i Hope,) where, in fact, his train, as appears from these premises, were CXXXI persons, which number agrees, to a mark, with the inscription at Assonet. Thus the ancient history or biography of Thorfinn Karlsefn and this celebrated monument in North America, in turn, most accurately, and in a wonderful manner, confirm each other.

Under the numeral characters commonly expressing CXXXI, two letters are seen. The first, 17, Latino-Gothic, as is known to all, expresses the Latin N; but the second, Y, is Runic, the common M, for which this character is found inserted in many writings of the middle age, otherwise Latin, both by the Scandinavians and the Anglo-Saxons. But thus inserted, this character always signifies the word maðr (man, homo, vir,) or its plural menn, meðr, (men) Thus I conjecture that these two letters indicate, by way of abbreviation, the two entire words, n(orro enir) m(en n,) which, added to the number CXXXI, may signify so many (European) north-men. The figure, moreover, which we take for a ship, without masts, sails or rigging, standing among these reputed letters, should be noticed. Thus, hieroglyphically, or figuratively, as we conjecture, this fact may be indicated, viz. that those men, borne by ship, came to that land; but afterwards they despoiled the ship of masts, rigging and sails, that they might desert it, and acquire for themselves permanent little dwel. lings on the land. Thus this entire sentence is made out, viz. CXXXI inlorroenir) (ship’s) m(enn) i. e. northern, (European, or originating from Norway and Iceland,) sailors.

II. Other characters follow, separated from these lines, but, nevertheless, to be regarded as a continuation of them, few indeed, but of grave import, expressed in Latino-Gothic letters—these, for example,

M OR The first of these very brief lines presents to us something to be abbreviated, similar, in some way, to complex Runics, which, indeed, at first view appears to be made up of two letters, but, on a

recorded, would not militate against such theories. All the other representations of these antique and curious devices, from Sewall's in 1768, and Winthrop's in 1788, to that of the Rhode

more thorough examination, it is perceived to ernbrace three, which make the word, NAM, (nám). This being appropriate to the ancient language of the Scandinavians and also to that of the Icelanders of the present day, easily takes the same significations; and another word, more common, but compounded, land-nán, takes the following, the occupation of a region or territory, the country thus occupied, or the ground reduced to the possession of the first discoverers or settlers. The word rernajns to the present time, in Danish, Nam, which, according to the great Lexicon of that language, edited by the Royal Scientific Society of Hafnia, is thus defined,-the occupation of anything for the possession and use of the same.-The other word, OR, is nothing other than a most ancient and sufficiently well known form of the old language of the Scandinavians, signifying the same as vor in modern Icelandic and Danish, which better agrees with the Anglo-Saxon ur e, and the English our. Both words together, nam or, exhibit this brief but very forcible signification,-territory by us occupied, or our colonies.

III. In the bighest part of the configuration, above this inscription, is seen a figure, sufficiently artificial, representing, in our opinion, a great shield, furnished (pede singulari) very similar to a fish's tail, which was called by the ancient Scandinavians, as by the Icelanders, at the present day, spor fr, hence the common denomination of the foot of a shield, skjaldarsporor, the (fish) tail of a shield. This shield, together with the adjoining and inverted bead-piece, being the ancient form common among Europeans, I take for signs of the peaceable occupation of that land.

IV. This occupation, or cultivation, of the soil or colony, is further. more indicated by a very rude figure, cut in the rock beneath the line of numerals, if indeed it represents, as we conjecture it does, a heiser, lying down or resting. A day's walk of a heifer, or the full space she travelled over in one (suinmer) day, in the first settlement of Iceland, used, sometimes, to designate the length and breadth of the soil to be occupied. (See e. g. Landnamae, Lib. 4. Cap. 10.) In the same manner the Phoenician Cadmus, occupying a part of Greece, was led to build bis own little dwelling on the spot where a cow, wearied with her long ranging, and nearly overcome, laid herself down to rest.

V. This whole configuration, I think, represents to the beholder this scene,-the ship of Thorfinn Karlsefn, previously destined to Vineland, brought to this shore, the wind being remarkable, as appears by the suspended mast, his wife Gudrida, sitting on the shore, holds in her hand a key, belonging to their house, built, as appears, some ume previous. Before her stands their son, Snorr, then three years

Island Historical Society in 1830, are conceived to be more or less important. It is only to be regretted that the care and precision bestowed upon the latter, could not have been applied, in getting an accurate impression, a century earlier.

The event recorded is manifestly one of importance in Indian history. We consider the characters hieroglyphics of the Algic stamp. They are not Runic characters, as we may confidently affirm, with this aptique alphabet before us. Some of the principal resemblances to Runes, which appear in the latest copy of this inscription, are wholly unnoticed, in this shape, in the previous drawings. The letters R, I, N reversed, and X appear first on Kendall's drawing in 1807, when the country had been settled and cultivated, and the inscription gazed at, and talked of, in the vicinity, for more than a hundred years. And we think it would be hazarding little to suppose that some idle boy, or more idle man, had superadded these English, or Ro

old, having been born in America. The accompanying men, CXXXI, (or one less,) had then taken possession of Vineland, and thus declared (nám or) their proper possession to be acquired. One of the ships belonging to them, by which they had been borne thither, being bereft of its sails, for that purpose, is represented as made fast to the shore. The hen-cock, by his crowing, announces domestic quiet or peace, the shield is at rest, and the head-piece, or helmet, is also laid aside. Then, suddenly, war is indicated as near at hand. Thorfinn, the leader of the colonists, is at peace in his dwelling, but, with his shield hastily seized, he endeavors to arm himself against the ag. gressions of the Skroellings, (or Esquimaus, who violently attacked the Scandinavians, equipped with clubs, or branches of trees, bow and arrows, and, moreover, with a military machine, (unknown to us,) which, in the history of Thorfinn, is called ballista, from which, besides darts and large stones, affixed (as appears) to ropes or cables, shot forth immense balls,—which fact that celebrated history expressly testifies. :

VI. Various lineaments, which mark the ropes and other instruments and points of a ship, as also delineations of other figures, in this inscription upon the rock, are composed, as I think, of Runic cryptographics, or characters, (or evigmas,) such as were in use anciently in Iceland, and even at the present day are found inscribed on rocks, in various mountain caverns, e. g. in the cave which is called Paradisiaca, (Paradisar-hellir). Since, however, the many delineations of the diversified sculpture here presented do not agree with each other, in their representation of these lineaments, we here, especially, hesitate to attempt, at once, their explanation.

FINN MAGNUSEN."

« PreviousContinue »