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 Religious Origins of American Violence.
DR. NATHAN WRIGHT: an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bryn Mawr College. He has researched historical changes to religious belief and practice among Mormons in the U.S.
DR. KATIE OXX: an assistant professor in the History of Christianity at St. Josephs University and producer and historical director of the documentary “Urban Trinity: The Story of Catholic Philadelphia.”
REV. JIM MCINTIRE: Pastor of Hope UMC in Havertown, PA. His passion for American history and it’s implications has been lifelong and has led him to studies in political science, history, and law.
Why do people believe myths that have been disproven by science? Why have Americans fought over stories about who was here first? Does Viking enthusiasm have anything to do with white supremacy? This event is a conversation with author David M. Krueger about his book Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America. Copies will be available for sale at the event and the author will be available to sign them.
This is the second forum in Arch Street’s “American Myths Series,” which facilitates thoughtful reflection on the content and meaning of stories that shape national identity. Childcare will be provided. Arch Street UMC is located at 55 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia, one block north of City Hall.
The Facebook page of the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota posted the following statement on February 16, 2015:
“Look for The New York Times Magazine this Sunday, Feb. 22 for an article that should feature the Runestone Museum! The name of the article’s author is cloaked in mystery until then. I don’t know if the article will appear in the free online version, but you can try here: www.nytimes.com then click Magazine.”
I wish I knew more about this forthcoming article, but I will post something as soon as the article is published. My forthcoming book Myths of the Runestone: Viking Martyrs and Birthplace of America (University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2015) will be the definitive account of the popular enthusiasm for the Kensington Rune Stone and it tells the history of the Runestone Museum. In the meantime, here is a video that tells a bit of the Kensington Rune Stone’s story and the debates that still rage regarding its authenticity.
Visit the Runestone Museum website at: http://www.runestonemuseum.org/
This was the headline of a recent article on a satirical news website called the World News Daily Report. The article claims that a group of amateur archaeologists recently discovered a collection of Viking artifacts on the shore of Lake Huron near the town of Cheboygan, Michigan. The collection included “swords, axes…silver buttons and a balance scale allegedly from the British isles, hair combs and knife handles made of walrus ivory and originating from Greenland or Iceland.” The artifacts were sent to the Department of Archaeology at the University of Michigan for further analysis. The researchers concluded that the site was once the location of a Pre-Columbian trading center for Scandinavian explorers.
Vikings did indeed visit North America prior to Columbus. Archaeologists in 1960 unearthed a Viking settlement dating to the year 1000 at l’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, Canada. However, there is no credible evidence that they reached the middle of the continent. A quick Google search to verify the story would have revealed that it was indeed a joke. Yet judging from the numerous comments below the article, many people took this claim seriously.
The notion that Medieval Norsemen visited the Upper Midwest has been a perennial fascination since the late nineteenth century. In 1898, a Swedish immigrant farmer in western Minnesota claimed that he discovered a stone with a runic inscription left by Norse explorers in the year 1362. The artifact, known as the Kensington Rune Stone, was soon declared a hoax by numerous academics. However, scholarly denunciations did little to dampen the spirits of those who have been the stone’s ardent defenders. In 1907, amateur historian and Norwegian immigrant Hjalmar Holand acquired the stone and began a lifelong mission to prove its authenticity. Holand scoured the Minnesota landscape digging up battle axes, swords and other purported Norse artifacts. He published his findings in numerous books and articles. Much of his argumentation is based on pseudo-science and wild historical conjecture. In spite of his specious claims, Holand generated enough publicity for the Kensington Rune Stone that by the 1960s, some 60% of Minnesotans believed that Vikings were the first European visitors to the state. The Kensington Rune Stone was featured at the Smithsonian Institute, the New York World’s Fair and even on a recent History Channel documentary entitled “Holy Grail in America.” Why did the Kensington Rune Stone and the theory of pre-Columbian Norse travels to Minnesota become so popular considering the lack of credible evidence? This question is at the very heart of my current research. Click on my book page to find out more about my forthcoming book A Holy Mission to Minnesota: Viking Martyrs, Civil Religion, and the Birthplace of America, University of Minnesota Press. Stay tuned for further updates!