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Step Back into An Ancient and Sacred Time In Alberta’ History At The Viking Ribstones

History lovers may just want to visit Viking this summer. The area, 120 km east of Edmonton, is home to one of Alberta’s historical wonders.
39 HSG -J- Viking Ribstones
Image by quydsin via Pixabay

With a short hike to the top a nearby hill that boasts the highest point for miles around, visitors can experience the mystery and ancient history of the Viking Ribstones. One of only nine Ribstones in all of Alberta, the two large animal-ribcage-shaped stones, formally known as Boulder Petroglyphs, have remained unmoved since ancient times. While visitors take in the breathtaking view, they can spend time experiencing the spiritual powers of the Ribstones, imagining what it was like for the original inhabitants of this land who stood in the same place centuries ago.     

Ancient history

The ancient monuments that are the Ribstones, have long served as a spiritual shrine for the historical buffalo hunting Plains People. It was a place to send prayers and express gratitude for thousands of years to the spirit of Old Man Buffalo, a spiritual herd protector who is actually carved into the Ribstones. These carvings have long fascinated archeologists studying the artifact. Of particular allure are two types of marks, including grooves believed to be the animal’s ribcage, and round pits that may represent arrow holes. Others suggest these circular marks depict the Iron Creek Meteorite’s pits. This meteorite was also a memorial to Old Man Buffalo and considered one of the most sacred.

Visitors experiencing the Viking Ribstones may be transported to an ancient and sacred time in Alberta’ history, long before the plains were settled. They can envision the local Natives making their customary treks to the Ribstones. Here, they would leave spiritual offerings to seek luck prior to a hunt, or to express gratitude after should the hunt be successful. Traditional gifts have included sweetgrass braids, coins, even tobacco or cigarettes. Still today, First Nations people continue this tradition at the Ribstones and visitors may even witness colourful pieces of cloth tied to nearby trees, expressing traditional spiritual rituals.

A sacred place to learn, share, and celebrate

The Viking Ribstones offer a unique opportunity to visit a sacred site that is not an organized activity, but rather remains relatively unchanged from its original state. Once visitors have taken in the site, they can follow the open-ended “V” shape that points toward a lake, as well as Wolf Ears Hill just 25 km away. Many believe that the Ribstones point towards the original site of the Iron Creek Meteorite on Strawstack Hill. The meteorite, according to ancient legend to be the ancestor to all Ribstones, was removed in 1866 but remains one of Canada’s largest ever discovered. Composed mainly of iron, it weighs 145 kg and is approximately 60 cm in diameter.

The Ribstones have since been protected, designated as provincial historical resource. Visitors are privileged to experience the ancient sacred symbol for the area’s original inhabitants. These people have long shared their revered places with visitors, including the cultural and spiritual meaning behind them, always holding values of respect, honour, and integrity. In turn, it’s essential visitors return these values to ensure future generations may also enjoy these authentic opportunities to venture into a wonderous time long ago.

To visit the Viking Ribstones, take Highway 14 east of Viking for 11 km, where a sign describes the Ribstones on the south side of the road. Fifty metres east of the sign, take the gravel road south for 1.6km until reaching a T-intersection. After turning left, then right, the markers lead the way.

Natalie Noble is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Hot Summer Guide advertising feature.  It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.