Here’s the video of my lecture at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota in Fall 2018.
The aim of Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America is to tell the story of how the Kensington Rune Stone emerged as sacred, civic totem that embodied the aspirations and anxieties of Minnesotans in the twentieth century. Furthermore, it illuminates the various reasons that Minnesotans have wanted so badly to believe that Vikings visited the American Midwest long before Christopher Columbus reached the “New World.” The question of “is the rune stone real or fake?”is not the most important part of my analysis.
My working assumption has been that the runic inscrption unearthed in a Swedish immigrant’s farm field in 1898 was most likely created in the late nineteenth century. When people press me on the specifics of why I don’t consider it to be an artifact created in the fourteenth century, I refer them to the work of researchers who are better equipped to answer the geological, linguistic, archaeological, and historical questions pertinent to the Kensington Rune Stone. I remind people that I am primarily a 19th and 20th-century historian who specializes in social theory, religion, and American culture. Given the somewhat superficial attention I give to the question of the rune stone’s authenticity in my book, I have listed some additional resources here that will help readers to wrestle with the many scientific questions involved. Among the researchers I have found to be the most persuasive is runic scholar Henrik Williams.
Dr. Williams is a professor of Scandinavian languages at Uppsala University in Sweden and he is also the lead researcher for the American Association of Runic Studies, which is committed to historically accurate, peer-reviewed, scientific analysis of runes and runic inscriptions. The organization also coordinates academic exchanges between Sweden and the United States. In coming weeks, William will be traveling across the U.S. and may be speaking at a location near you (see full itinerary below).
I’m particularly excited that Dr. Williams will be speaking along with me at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA on Monday, November 19 at 600 pm. The title of our panel is “Vikings, Pioneers, and Natives: the Kensington Rune Stone and the Contested History of the American Midwest.” Follow the links for the Penn Museum announcement and the Facebook event page. We will be joined by Dr. Ada Kuskowski (Department of History) and Dr. Brian Daniels (Penn Cultural Heritage Center) who are both professors at the University of Pennsylvania. The conversation will be interdisciplinary and will consider how ideas about race, religion, and science play out through the artifact known as the Kensington Rune Stone.
A light reception will follow the event and I’ll be there to sign books as well.
A complete list of the Henrik Williams events in the United States:
October 29, Northfield, MN
Norwegian American Historical Assn (NAHA) Annual Meeting, Saint Olaf College, (private event)
November 3rd,, Alexandria, MN
Celebration Dinner, (private event)
November 5th, Bloomington, MN
Torske Klubben,“Cracking the Runic Code: Runes and Runic Inscriptions in Norway”, (members only event)
November 6th, Minneapolis, MN
Uppsala University Recognition: Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Football game
Presentation/Discussion with UCO students Medieval Association. “Runes in Sweden and on Gotland” (class participation)
“Forbidden Archaeology” with Dr. Andy White, University of South Carolina, Topic: Kensington Rune Stone, (class participation)
Presentation/Discussion with UCO students, Historical Research Course, “Runes and North American Runes”, (class participation)
November 9th, Edmond, OK,
Oklahoma, Sons of Norway, (private event)
November 11, Sierra Vista, AZ
Windemere Conference Center, Henrik Williams: Runic Inscriptions in the Mustang Mountains
November 14, Philadelphia, PA
6:00 p.m., Rainey Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3620 South Street
November 17, Washington, DC
Smithsonian Associates, Henrik Williams: Cracking the Runic Code: The Alphabet of Mystery
Last night I had the privilege of speaking at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul Minnesota. It is the home of the Minnesota Historical Society. While I was researching for my book Myths of the Rune Stone Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America, I spent many days here reading newspaper microfilm and scores of other historical documents. The event had been scheduled to take place in a smaller seminar room, but they had to move it to the main auditorium because of the crowd (167 in attendance!) I think that Mike Mullen’s recent article in the Minneapolis City Pages generated a lot of interest. Many thanks to Danielle Dart, coordinator of public programs for lifelong learners, for making this event possible. You can listen to the podcast above.
Although I have given numerous presentations on the book since its release last October, I made a special effort to locate the Kensington Rune Stone story in the long history of the American obsession with pre-Columbian Vikings in North America. Although we didn’t have credible evidence of a Norse presence in North America until the discovery of Newfoundland’s L’Anse aux Meadows archaeological site in 1960, some white Americans went to great lengths to prove Vikings reached as far south as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and even as far west as Minnesota. They used this American “pre-history” to address anxieties related to the nation’s growing racial diversity and the troubled way that white Americans came to terms with living on land once occupied by someone else. The Kensington Rune Stone must be understood within this context. Additionally, my talk addressed the question of the artifact’s authenticity and the status of science literacy in American culture today. Information on Mike Scholtz’s documentary film Lost Conquest can be found here. CORRECTION: I mistakenly described Tom Trow as a geologist. He is actually an archaeologist. A link to his article debunking Holand’s rune stone theory can be found here.
I also include a short video below. A young woman posed a question about myths. She joked that her grandmother was very excited about her coming to see my presentation until she heard the title. She asked about how people cope when they learn that their myths are proven to be false. Here’s my answer…
For an author, it is always gratifying when someone reads your book carefully and takes the time to prepare a thoughtful response. Last week, Myths of the Rune Stone, was featured in a forum dedicated to the theme of American myths. Two historians, a sociologist, and a theologian delivered outstanding presentations on the relevance of the book for reflecting on important dimensions of U.S. history, religion, and culture.
The “Why Myths Matter” forum is the second in a two-year series of forums dedicated to the theme of American myths. It was held on February 24, 2016 at the Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia PA. Click hereto view information on the entire series. Speakers are listed below along with a guide to navigate the podcast. You can fast forward using the the arrow keys on your keyboard. I hope you enjoy it!
1:00 – Welcome and short reflection by Rev. Robin Hynicka – Jeremiah 10
6:18 – Speaker introductions and overview of the book Myths of the Rune Stone – author David M. Krueger
24:50 – Dr. Jon Paul – Lutheran Theological Seminary – What about the role of fantasy and playfulness in the rune stone story? References to novelists Ole Rolvaag and Louise Erdrich.
33:00 – Dr. Nathan Wright – Bryn Mawr College – Despite the dangers of myth to exclude and dominate, they are necessary for societies to function. References to Durkheim, Bellah, and other sociologists.
45:50 – Dr. Katie Oxx – St. Joseph’s University – The ways that Catholics negotiate American identity. A comparison of the “Pope stone” and the “rune stone.” References to “new materialism.” How do material artifacts act on us?
54:00 – Rev. Jim McIntire – Havertown UMC – Myth fills a gap in public discourse. Conspiracy theorists like Scott Wolter profit handsomely from propagating myths. Reflections Joseph Campbell’s book on myths.
1:10:50 – Audience Response
Why do people believe myths that have been disproven by science? What is the difference between history and myth? Why have Americans fought over stories about who was here first? What does Viking enthusiasm have 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. Responding speakers include historian Jon Pahl, historian Katie Oxx, sociologist Nathan Wright, and Jim McIntire, a pastor and activist.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016
7:00 — 8:30 PM
ARCH STREET UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
55 NORTH BROAD STREET
Whether or not you’ve read the book, all are welcome to attend and participate in the conversation. Copies will be available for sale at the event and can be signed by the author.
Philadelphia is commonly referred to as the birthplace of America. This is not surprising given that it is the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written. This claim, however, is contested by a small town in Minnesota. A large fiberglass Viking statue towering over Alexandria boldly declares that “America” began in what is now the American Midwest. My book Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America tells the story of how the unearthing of a mysterious runic artifact from an immigrant farmers’ field in 1898 inspired a myth that challenged many of the orthodoxies of U.S. history. Although the rune stone was declared by most scholars to be fraudulent, Minnesotans used the artifact to argue that their region was as significant to American history as the traditionally historic tourist destinations of Philadelphia and Boston. Read chapter three of Myths of the Rune Stone to learn more about the civic and regional aspect of the Kensington Rune Stone story.
Last night, I had the privilege of speaking at the monthly Nerd Nite gathering held at Frankford Hall in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. My talk centered on how the rune stone story exemplifies that America’s preoccupation with discovery myths and birthplace narratives often serve to marginalize the history of North America’s first residents. Additionally, I noted that Kensington Rune Stone phenomenon demonstrates that Americans have long struggled to discern the difference between history and myth, science and pseudoscience. I think these themes appealed to the Nerd Nite crowd, which is often comprised of grad students, scholars, and others interested in history, science and popular culture.
Myths of the Rune Stone has been getting a lot of attention in Minnesota over the past month. My latest interview went out to 45 radio stations last weekend! Additionally, it has started to get national attention thanks to a review at the blog Religion Dispatches. I’m glad that the book has finally made its Philly debut. Please do contact me if you would like me to speak at an event in the Philadelphia region.