GRE Essay Topic 972 - The following appeared in an article from a popular newsmagazine. "In 1888 a stone was unearthed in northern Wisconsin with an inscription in an old Scandinavian alphabet and bearing the date 1362. Scandinavians were not, however, exploring or emigrating to northern Wisconsin in the fourteenth century. Recent analysis proves, in fact, that the stone had been buried in the spot where it was found for no more than 100 years. Moreover, the community near the discovery site was home to a group of people who had formed a club to study medieval Scandinavian culture ?a period that includes the fourteenth century. The stone, therefore, is not a genuine artifact of medieval Scandinavian culture inscribed in the fourteenth century but most likely a hoax perpetrated by the group. " Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.
To stone or not to
The authors argument that the stone is not a original piece of Scandanavian culture but rather a sham, although sounds cogent at first but on closer inspection reveals many hypotheses on which the argument is based. Unless this assumptions are validated, there is no way one can claim the originality of the stone.
The author states that the year inscribed on the stone was 1362 and since Scandanavian people were not travelling during the fourteenth century, he concludes that the stone was not put there by them. This logic is invalid. The inscription merely signifies the time when the stone was inscribed but it doesn’t provide enough evidence that the stone was buried during the same time period. It also doesn’t signify that the Scandanavian people put the stone there themselves. Maybe during the 14th century, inscribed stones were used as a part of the currency system and any other tribe or group who acquired the stone buried it in that spot. It may also happen that the Scandanavian people themselves buried the stone at a later point of time. Hence the inscription on the stone doesn’t necessary invalidates the fact that it is not a genuine piece of artefact of the Scandanavian time period.
The author also claims that the age of the stone is no more than 100 years and goes on to state that the relatively young age of the stone makes it impossible for it to be an authentic memorabilia of the Scandanavian age. However, stones are long lasting and it is buried since 100 years does not necessarily prove the fact that the stone has been in existence for only so long. No mention of the stones age has been provided. It may be possible that the stone has long been in existence and has been passed down from generation to generation until a natural disaster like a flood or earthquake a 100 years ago caused its burial. Hence, the stones actual age needs to be determined preemptively in order to determine its authenticity.
The author mentioned that the community near the discovery site is a club formed by people who wants to study Scandanavian culture. This could mean that the site is abundant with items unearthed during excavation thereby proving that the location was indeed a Scandanavian colony and hence authenticating the stone. Thus, one should try to find out more about the site and its history which could shed some light about the stone’s origin.
Thus, in conclusion, there are enough assumptions present in the passage which does not justify the authors inference of the stone being not authentic. More research should be done to find out about the history of the site, actual age of the stone etc to find out about the past of the stone in a more accurate fashion. Till then, the authors premise stands rejected.