Why Viking Myths Matter to Americans

Why Myths Matter to Americans: A Round-Table Discussion w/Author David M. Krueger Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - 7:00-8:30 pm at Arch Street UMC: Philadelphia, PA DR. JON PAHL: the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor in the History of Christianity at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He is the author of Empire of Sacrifice: The … Continue reading Why Viking Myths Matter to Americans

Representing the True Believer in Scholarship and Film

Myths of the Rune Stone

Did Viking reach what is now Minnesota prior to the explorations of Christopher Columbus in 1492? We know for certain that Vikings did indeed spend time in North America around the year 1000. An archaeological site unearthed at L’Anse Aux Meadows  in Canada’s province of Newfoundland is proof. However, scores of Midwestern Americans have claimed that Vikings didn’t stop there. They assert that an inscribed artifact known as the Kensington Rune Stone proves that Scandinavians had reached the heart of the continent by 1362.

Although most professional geologists, linguists, and historians have concluded that the runic inscription is most likely a product of the nineteenth century, many Minnesotans have persisted in this belief. The faithful have frequently been portrayed by journalists, scholars, and filmmakers in a pejorative light. In the 1970s, a British TV producer, Brian Branston, spent time in Minnesota researching the popular enthusiasm for the Kensington Rune Stone. Here’s how he described believers in the artifact’s authenticity:

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Thoughts on Motion Sickness, Books Tours, and Scholarly Talks in Retirement Homes

Myths of the Rune Stone

Last week, my family and I traveled to Minnesota for a combination book tour and vacation. Flying across the country with young kids is no easy feat, and it is important to make sure you have all the necessary supplies i.e. diapers, favorite toys, etc. I’m particularly grateful for the brick of wet wipes my wife stuffed in the diaper bag at the last minute. They came in handy cleaning up the mess from our one-year-old vomiting four times (yes, four times!) in the rented car seat. Although motion sickness is a common ailment afflicting my side of the family, I think it might have been exacerbated by an overindulgence of pizza and (slightly) expired birthday cake on the plane.  The day ended a bit more smoothly than it began as my wife and I were able to attend my twentieth-year college reunion. It was great to see many old friends and I was…

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Vikings, White Power, and the Battle Over America’s Founding Myths

Myths of the Rune Stone

This is a time of year that Americans celebrate and sometimes debate who ought to be considered the first to “discover” America. Leif Eriksson Day is celebrated October 9 in reference to the date in 1825 that the first Norwegian immigrants arrived in the U.S. Columbus Day is celebrated October 12, the date that Columbus arrived in the Bahamas in 1492. Although Leif Eriksson and his fellow Vikings arrived in North America around the year 1000, it is Columbus Day that has reigned supreme as the time to mark the discovery of a new world.

The very notion of discovery is, of course, is fundamentally flawed because tens of millions of people already lived in the Americas before Eriksson and Columbus arrived. In recent years, there has been a growing political movement calling for the end to the civic celebrations of Columbus Day, particularly because of the growing awareness of the crimes Columbus…

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Tour Guide Confessions: Catholic Pilgrims, Bible Riots, and #PopeInPhilly

This past Friday, I had the privilege of leading a group of 50 Catholic pilgrims on a historical tour of Philadelphia. They are in town, of course, for the visit of Pope Francis. Philly history tours typically include visits to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other sacred national sites related to the national founding period. However, knowing … Continue reading Tour Guide Confessions: Catholic Pilgrims, Bible Riots, and #PopeInPhilly