Mar 24, 2024

The Kensington Runestone

Every summer from kindergarten to college (when I decided to stay home), my parents dragged me on a week's camping trip somewhere up north, to Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Canada.  It was usually pretty dismal, with no tv, no museums, no historic sites, nothing to do but hunt, fish, swim, and mess around in boats.

But during the summer after eighth grade, we went camping in Alexandria, Minnesota, site of the Kensington Runestone.

Young Swedish immigrant Olof Ohlman discovered the 200-pound slab of sandstone covered with Medieval runes in 1898.  It tells about a group of 30 Vikings who left Vinland "on an exploration journy" in 1362, and somehow made it to Minnesota.  One day some of them went fishing, and returned to find the men they left behind "red with blood and death," probably attacked by Skraelings (Indians).

Historians at the time -- and my junior high history textbook 70 years later -- stated categorically that no Europeans made it to the New World before Columbus, so this was a startling discovery, and immediately controversial.  The academic establishment decreed the runestone to be a fake, carved by Ohlman for financial gain.

In 1907, a historian named Hjalmar Holand bought the runestone, and spent the rest of his life trying to prove it genuine, describing how Vikings could well have made it to Minnesota in books like Westward from Vinland (1940) and A Pre-Columbian Crusade to America (1962). 

Most historians today contend that Holand was wrong: the runestone is indeed a forgery. But Alexandria loves its claim to fame.  There's a runestone museum and gift shop, and a 28-foot statue of a Viking, Big Ole.

Today, regardless of whether they believe that the Vikings got as far as Minnesota, all historians recognize that they reached the New World before Columbus, and established a permanent settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.

What's the gay connection?

1. The Vikings who explored Minnesota were all male.

2. Olof Ohlmann was rather cute.

3. My junior high history textbook was wrong.  The adults either didn't know about the Viking exploration of America, or they were lying about it.  What else were they hiding? Maybe the upcoming "discovery of girls" that everyone at Washington Junior HIgh was always evoking was a lie, too.


  1. Also, the Indians around MN and the Dakotas are known for lengthy postpartum sex taboos and taboos about touching a woman before war (and if you've never been involved in one, you can't marry). Note that I said taboos about women. So, there's another gay (or at least, heterosexuality is severely restricted) connection.

    1. I can really see a Native American- Viking gay orgy


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