Kehoe, Alice. The Kensington Runestone: Approaching a Research Question Holistically.

Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2005.

Kehoe is one of the very few professional archaeologists willing to argue with the orthodox position regarding the possibility of Europeans in the interior of North America before the 16th century — and it says something about the more common rigidity of scientific thinking that she had to go to such an obscure publisher to get this short book published.

A great deal has been written about the runestone discovered by a Minnesota farmer in 1898, very little of it at all objective. In fact, the usual doctrine has been that Olaf Ohman obviously must have faked the stone, since everyone already knew that there couldn’t possibly be any Norse fur-trappers in the neighborhood in 1362, and evidence to the contrary therefore must be false. This a priori nonsense is very bad science indeed and it has been driving me crazy for a long, long time. I’ve been reading in the field of pre-Columbian exploration since college in the ’60s and the “No Europeans Before Columbus” principle that American historians adhere to so slavishly has seriously impeded research, from the Smithsonian on down. Taking the “pro” position on this issue, in fact, almost automatically leads to professional ridicule and can destroy your career.

The author does an excellent job describing the psychological mechanism behind this problem, and the role played by myth-making in American history, and the fact that nearly everyone involved has turf to protect. She goes at the question from all angles, pointing out how many new discoveries in linguistics, for instance, have come out in favor of the runestone’s authenticity, and drawing parallels between Kensington and the major discoveries by the Ingstads at L’Anse-aux-Meadows — which also were loudly denounced as fraudulent, until the sheer amount and weight of clear evidence made that assumption no longer tenable. A first-rate study in a longstanding historical problem.

Published in: on 14 November 2015 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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