NEWS: Historic rock pilfered from RI waters is returned, no charges contemplated

Photo courtesy State of Rhode Island

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

A rock with historic significance in Rhode Island that was taken from its location last summer from waters off North Kingstown has been returned to the state following a criminal investigation.

No charges are being considered and officials are not disclosing who assisted in the return April 16 of the Quidnessett Rock, also known as the Narragansett Rune Stone from waters off Pojac Point in North Kingstown, sometime last July or August.

A joint investigation by the Rhode Island Attorney General's Environmental Unit and the Department of Environmental Management Criminal Investigative Unit produced the rock from out of state.

“The stone has a personal significance for many people here in Rhode Island,” said Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office.

“The state felt it was in everybody’s best interest to just have the stone returned, rather than go through a potentially protracted legal battle with an unknown outcome.”

The rock is described in a joint news release as "a Rhode Island formation meta-sandstone that is 7 ft. long, 5 ft. high and 2 ½ ft. high and is inscribed with two rows of symbols, which some have indicated resemble ancient Runic characters."

The news release from the Attorney General and DEM offices offered further details about the significance of the stone:

The Quidnessett Rock/Narragansett Rune Stone was first reported to the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (HPHC) in the 1980s. 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.