The state Attorney General's office said Friday the so-called Narragansett Rune Stone was returned to state custody April 16, following a joint investigation by that office and the state Department of Environmental Management.
The discovery and return of the rock was initiated by the Attorney General’s Environmental Unit and DEM’s Criminal Investigation Unit after they were notified by the Coastal Resources Management Council that the rock had been removed from the tidal waters off of Pojac Point in North Kingstown between July and August 2012.
The rock is a Rhode Island formation meta-sandstone that is 7 feet long, 5 feet high and 2 feet high and is inscribed with two rows of symbols, which some have indicated resemble ancient Runic characters.
The state has asked the University of Rhode Island to assist with further examination and analysis of the rock in order to determine the origin of the inscriptions on it.
Amy Kempe, of the Attorney General's office, said the state would not be bringing any charges in connection with the stone's disappearance.
"The state felt it was best to have the stone returned versus engaging in a potentially protracted legal battle with an unknown outcome," Kempe said Friday afternoon. "An individual provided assistance in identifying the location and the return of the stone. The location was never disclosed, although the individual facilitated the return of the stone."
The Narragansett Rune Stone – also known as the Quidnessett Rock – was first reported to the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (HPHC) in the 1980s, according to the AG's press release. The New England Antiquities Research Association published several articles in the mid 1980s/early 1990s about the rock. According to the HPHC, there are a number of marked or inscribed rocks along the shores of the Narragansett Bay Region, the most famous being Dighton Rock, which have been the object of study and speculation since Colonial times.
The HPHC has been unable to find any mention of the Quidnessett Rock in any previous inventories of the Narragansett Bay but this may be due to the fact that as early as 1939 the rock was located upland and may have been buried. More recently, due to the dramatic erosion of the shoreline at Pojac Point, the rock’s last location prior to its removal was 20 feet from the extreme low tide line making the inscriptions only visible for a short period of time between the shifting tides. Although the rock’s significance as a cultural resource has yet to be resolved, the HPHC recognizes the importance of protecting the rock.
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and DEM Director Janet Coit thanked the many individuals who assisted in the return of the rock to the State, including Detective Captain Jack McIlmail and Detective Sheila Paquette, DEM Criminal Investigative Unit; Special Assistant Attorney General Christian F. Capizzo, Attorney General’s Environmental Unit; Professor Dennis Nixon, Associate Dean and the staff at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography; Janet Freedman, Coastal Geologist and Dave Beutel, Aquaculture Coordinator, the Coastal Resources Management Council, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation; and Fine Arts Express, a private professional rigging company.
The stone is not going to be returned to Pojac Point at this time, but rather to be tested by URI. The AG's Kempe said there are not yet permanent plans for the stone.