By Robert Voyles, Minnetonka, MN
I believe in the authenticity of the Kensington Runestone, and I'm convinced that medieval Scandinavians (but not Vikings) traversed this region's far-inland waterways not only well before the time of Columbus, but also a few hundred years before the later French arrived. I hope to explain to readers why the notion of waterway travel far into America’s heartland by medieval Scandinavians is valid— and in doing so, I also hope to explain why the KRS, self-dated to 1362, was deposited "out in the middle of nowhere" in the first place.
In simple terms, I contend that when exploring Scandinavians made repeated sojourns into this region — coming southward from Greenland and Hudson Bay or else westward from Vinland on America's east coast, and on through the Great Lakes. They couldn’t help but notice that the two separate, fast-dwindling water-routes ended very close to one another. In essence, I believe they discovered the convergence spot for these two waterways, which represented the completion of a huge waterway circle, initiated from two different oceanic sources.
Hand-chiseled and aged stoneholes — like those discovered around the KRS on Runestone Hill — have also been found in clustered abundance along the Whetstone River, located just across Minnesota’s border in northeast South Dakota, near Big Stone Lake. Other seemingly Scandinavian-related evidences, such as petroglyphs and iron objects, have been discovered in this same region, appearing to indicate that early Scandinavian explorers may have been interested in settling near this very special spot of land just a short distance west of Alexandria.
A lot of information about "local" Norse stoneholes and petroglyphs (like the so-called "Horn-Rock"), can be seen and read about in Scott Wolter's book, "The Hooked X." In Iceland, researcher Valdimar Samuelsson found that some of these medieval stoneholes "were at river and brook junctions," something I have discovered to be true here in our own area, too. A few years ago, I found a significant cluster of stoneholes near the discharge of the Pomme de Terre River into the Minnesota River. But sadly , not many professional historians or archaeologists even know about the clusters of medieval Norse stoneholes and other evidences to be found in this region, let alone what they stand for.
So, instead of beginning a settlement or colony on a more usual coastline, these prospective property owners seem to have been intent on starting a new settlement deep within the North American continent — again, precisely near the convergence spot where this huge waterway circle is completed. In this sense, then, the KRS expedition wasn’t operating out in the middle of nowhere at all; but rather, they were exploring in close proximity to this valued waterway convergence area.
I made it known several years ago that the Chippewa River, which discharges into the Minnesota River, was almost certainly the last leg of the long waterway journey that brought the Kensington Runestone travelers to Runestone Hill. Anthropologist and archaeologist Alice Beck Kehoe came very close to identifying the precise waterway routes to Kensington, showing on a map both the Hudson Bay and St. Lawrence/Great Lakes approaches into this region. However, she didn’t specify the end of the route showing that the Chippewa River leads to both Runestone Hill and to the ill-fated campsite a day’s journey north…to the west bank of Davidson Lake, which sports “two skerries,” and where the Erdahl Axe was discovered in 1894 buried under a tree stump more than two feet in diameter.
I think scholars such as Hjalmar Holand may have missed the significance of the Chippewa River because Runestone Hill is four miles or so overland, east from the river, which begs the question: Why was the Runestone Hill site chosen a few hours’ walking distance from the river? I think an acceptable reason was that the men didn't want sounds and campfire smoke drifting back too close to the river —the nearest water highway.