On our recent bus trip to North Dakota we made a stop in Alexandria, Minnesota. Alexandria is a county seat and has a museum which contains the famous or is it infamous Kensington Runestone. The Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke covered in runes on its face and side that supporters claim is evidence that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America in the 14th century, although experts identify it as a 19th-century hoax.
The stone was found by as local farmer in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County, Minnesota, and named after the nearest settlement, Kensington. Scientists and experts in Scandinavian linguistics consider the Runestone to be a fake. The Runestone has been analyzed and dismissed repeatedly without altering local opinion of the Runestone's legitimacy. The museum contains many interesting artifacts of metal origin from Europe found in North America to buttress the claim of the rocks Viking authenticity, Still it is known that the stone age native Americans had vast trading networks across the continents in all sorts of items. This doubtless explains the metal axes reaching the interior of the continent from the north Atlantic islands and coast. True or not the thousands of Scandinavians who settled in Minnesota must have taken pride in thinking their ancestors had “discovered” America long before Columbus.
Back aboard our bus after the impressive museum visit our guide took a vote on what we saw. Did the Vikings truly visit Minnesota via Hudson Bay and rivers of the North in the early 14th century? Thirty three said yes and 7 doubters said no, including Mr. and Mrs. Troutbirder. Mmmmmm.
And just now reading the Minneapolis Star and Tribune it seems a new musical has opened “ The Ohman Stone.” According to the paper “ It’s a new musical premiering Saturday in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, that does the one thing you wouldn’t expect from a story about the Kensington Runestone. It takes it seriously. The Minnesota icon, housed in an Alexandria museum, is a fake. Probably. Well, who knows? The notion of knights gallivanting about the Minnesota prairie 130 years before Columbus landed in the Bahamas, as the runes carved into the stone suggest, is a Monty Python movie — not plausible history. Right?It doesn’t matter. The real story of the runestone is not about the stone. It’s about people. The musical’s creators understand this, marketing their play as “Swedes vs. Norwegians, farmers vs. academia.” For legislators and petitioners pushing to turn the farm where the runestone was discovered into a state historic site, the story of the stone goes even deeper, to the heart of what it means to be a Minnesotan.”
Oh no. Now I’m thinking this born and bred Minnesotan and part Norwegian has denied his heritage and should have been a little more careful in his skepticism…..:)