By Robert Voyles, Minnetonka, MN
I think it is a mistake to think of just one or two Scandinavian expeditions coming into this region of Minnesota during the medieval “Vinland years,” and I wish to challenge the popular view that the Kensington Runestone was originally buried rather than erected. Additionally, I would like to introduce the idea that Runestone Hill may have once been one of several pre-planned defensive camping sites positioned along the Chippewa River.
Lifelong Kensington Runestone scholar, H. Holand, made the mistake of attributing most of the medieval Scandinavian stoneholes and iron weapons discovered in this region to just one expedition — the P. Knutson “rescue mission,” but this probably lacks factual reality, since there is no historical proof that the expedition ever set sail, or returned.
I personally believe that medieval stoneholes may possibly have been in play at Rune Stone Park to aid in retrieving something purposely buried (but not a land-claim), and I think this encoding — for lack of a better word — may have been accomplished even before the KRS was carved and erected. A problem, though, is that some of the stonehole rocks at Rune Stone Park have been moved around in “modern times,” making any specific design analysis difficult, if not impossible.
Generally speaking, authentic medieval stoneholes at Rune Stone Park and around this region could have been made just about any time reaching back into the “fur-obsession” Vinland years of about 1000 AD to 1362 AD. It seems unlikely that they were chiseled out post-KRS, though that cannot be ruled out. If the medieval stoneholes at Rune Stone Park were possibly not made during the KRS party’s stay at the park, then I wonder who made them?
Throughout my researching, one thing I never came across — in Europe or in America — was a memorial runestone that was buried to also serve as a land-claim. So, I don’t agree with S. Wolter’s notion of stoneholes and sacred geometry possibly being used at Rune Stone Park in conjunction with burying the KRS as a land-claim. However, again, I think it's very possible that the stoneholes made at Rune Stone Park were meant to hide something else.
It could be that serving several years in the U.S. Army has helped me to better understand the medieval bivouacking situation available to weary (and wary) hikers to Runestone Hill. I think that sitting for hours in quiet contemplation on the peaceful little knoll has helped me in assessing the surroundings there. After adding a bit of water-level research into the equation, it seems safe to say that the watery surroundings at Runestone Hill were once waterier than they are now. Professor N. Winchell, long ago Minnesota state geologist and archaeologist, confirmed that an eroding ravine northwest of Runestone Hill had, over the centuries, led to much lower water levels than existed in 1362.
Six hundred and fifty-eight years ago, the 10 survivors of the massacre at the “Lake with Two Skerries” may have arrived at the little knoll seeing a moat-like situation, with water nearly completely surrounding the little hill, in effect turning it into an island — but more like a peninsula-island, as was described in one translation. Back in 1362, Runestone Hill likely would not have been approachable by dry land except along a ridgeway leading in from the west, from the nearby Chippewa River. So, in effect, the little peninsula-island was guarded by water on three sides; only the west ridgeway leading in had to be guarded, making a safe bivouac more achievable.
It’s possible that when the KRS party arrived at Rune Stone Park, they could readily see that another party of Norsemen had made a number of stoneholes there. It may be that the KRS party chose to erect the runestone on Runestone Hill because they figured fellow Scandinavians might be re-visiting the site in the future for some reason. One good reason for visiting Runestone Hill in the future may have been to again use the site as a strategic, defensive camping spot.