Kjell Aartun (born July 6, 1925 in Sjernarøy) is a Norwegian theologian and linguist. He is considered a leading expert on Semitic languages, particularly the Ugaritic language, but is also known for several controversial theories on runic interpretation and the origin of Minoan civilization. Aartun received a government scholarship (statsstipendiat) in 1983 and received HM The King's Medal of Merit in Gold for his scientific work in 2001. He has been a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters since 1986, and is also a member of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft.
Aartun obtained the cand. theol. degree (a 6-year university degree in Theology) in 1954, and an additional degree in Greek in 1956. He was a Research Fellow 1956–1961 and Research Fellow/Lecturer 1962–1965. Aartun was Research Fellow in West Berlin 1965–1968, and Lecturer/Associate Professor at Stavanger lærerhøgskole 1968–1992. He was also a Docent in Jerusalem in 1971, director of the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem in 1974 and Docent of Semitic Languages at Lund University 1976–1978. He obtained the dr. philos. degree in 1978, with a dissertation on the Ugaritic language in two volumes titled Die Partikeln des Ugaritischen (Kevelaer, 1974/1978).
In his extensive two-volume work on Minoan civilization, Die Minoische Schrift (Harrassowitz Verlag, 1992/1997), Aartun asserts that the ancient Minoan culture was Semitic. His book Runer i kulturhistorisk sammenheng (Pax Forlag, 1994) asserts that Runic inscriptions found in Scandinavia were written in a Semitic language. These publications have made him a controversial figure since the early 1990s, with critics accusing him of producing pseudoscience.
His autobiography, Et forskerliv i Janteland ("A Researchers Life in the Country of Jante"), was published in 2004.