Monday, February 13, 2006

Vinland 2

Part 1

Fake or not, the Kensington Runestone was fervently defended by one Hjalmar Rued Holand, a local historian. His promotion resulted in a 1940 Smithsonian exhibition and later the creation of a museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Nevertheless, expert opinion remained generally skeptical. The 1967 Newfoundland discovery seemed to obviate any "need" for the Kensington Runestone as proof of Norse exploration.

When the stone was recently displayed in Sweden, it was still a sensational draw at the National Historical Museum. The American ambassador diplomatically danced around the authenticity question:

At the opening of the exhibit, in a ceremony attended by more than seven hundred guests and dignitaries, American ambassador to Sweden Charles Heimbold conceded that the runestone may be a forgery, a "strange, early Swedish-American practical joke" that nonetheless served as a symbol of the enduring ties between the United States and Scandinavia.

The runestone has generated enormous interest in Sweden, where it has been the subject of more than 120 articles, and museum attendance records were broken in the first week of the exhibit, which runs until January.

Lars Westman, the journalist whose article on the runestone for the Swedish publication
Vi inspired the exhibition, has jokingly suggested that "perhaps time has arrived" for the restitution of the stone to Sweden, along with the remains of Olof Ohman, the farmer who discovered it while clearing stumps on his farmland over a century ago.

More to come.

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