Sunday, February 19, 2006

Vinland 3

Part 1

Part 2

From the skeptics' point of view, the acceptance of a Norse presence in North America, following the archaeological dig at L'Anse aux Meadows, should have made the Kensington Runestone a non-issue.

"No Kensington stone is needed to prove that the Scandinavians reached America first," wrote James E. Knirk of the University of Oslo, reviewing works by two Kensington supporters for the journal Scandinavian Studies.

But the arcane arguments continue. In a lengthy rebuttal (PDF) to Knirk and other skeptics, Richard Nielsen, the best-prepared of the stone's defenders and author of the book mentioned earlier, marshaled a long series of linguistic defenses for the Minnesota runes.

He argued, with extensive citations, that they did represent "a faithful record of medieval Scandinavian speech" and that their dialect was unknown to the farmer Olof Ohman.

The purported location of the stone's discovery, west of Minneapolis, seems to make little sense in terms of a possible Norse journey up the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, and into Minnesota, but Nielsen has an explanation for that too.

Writing in the Journal of the West, Nielsen argues that the location makes more sense if, as he believes, the Norse launched trading trips into the interior of North America from Hudson's Bay. Indians from the region (Santee Sioux, Mandans, and others) were known to have used a trading route that went down the Red River to Lake Winnepeg and then by other water routes to Hudson's Bay. The Kensington site, he claims, lies on the portage between the Mississippi watershed and the Red River watershed.

These claims, in turn, tie in the fascinating history of the Norse settlements in Greenland, which did endure for four centuries despite their stubborn insistence on not learning from the Dorset-culture Eskimos and on attempting to maintain a pastoral economy in the near-Arctic.

Personally, I have no strong feelings about the Kensington Runestone's authenticity, although I do suspect that there was more to the Norse exploration than just the L'Anse aux Meadows station.

Instead, Nielsen's passionate "outsider" defense of the stone reminds me of another friend of mine, the late Bill McGlone, and his quixotic study of some Colorado stone inscriptions.

More to come.

Tags: ,


Blogger Steven Tucker said...

Excellent article - I think the greatest difficult is in the relative lack of information available. Accepting this historical account as a theory is a matter of indifference - but it is something I hope will continue to be explored.

4:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home