RUNE STONE, Leif Ericson Square, Bay Ridge

Crown Prince Olav, who ruled as the popular Olav V of Norway from 1957-1991, dedicated this replica of a Viking rune stone in Tune, Norway on a 1939 visit. The stone stands on Leif Ericson Square just east of 4th Avenue. (Tune, southeast of Oslo near the Swedish border, was incorporated into the town of Sarpsborg in 1992.) Rune stones, as the link explains, were monuments to the dead erected in northern European lands dominated by the Danes and Vikings beginning in the 4th Century AD and continuing into the 12th Century. They were inscribed with words in the Runic alphabet in use during this time.

These are exit roads, along with Shore Road Drive, from the Belt Parkway when it was opened for traffic in 1940. A ramp lonking it to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was built in the 1950s.


The brass plaque depicts Leif Ericson (a spelling variant is used here; the explorer spelled his name in runic characters) with spear and shield, standing before a Viking longboat. The longboats were used on trade and exploratory missions, and one such led by Ericson landed in Newfoundland in northeast Canada in 1000, give or take a few years. The explorers arriving there called Newfoundland “Vinland” as they found grapevines there — the climate may have been milder in Canada in that era.

The image of the fierce Viking warrior with horns on his helmet is largely false. Historic images show them with helmets, but they generally came with nosepieces and some eye and mouth protection, but not horns and certainly not wings, as Leif’s image is modeling on the plaque.



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