'Vikings beat Columbus to discover US'

TOMORROW Americans will be enjoying their annual Columbus Day public holiday but a professor has poured cold water on celebrations by coming up with new evidence that the Vikings beat the Italian navigator across the Atlantic, and deep into what is now the United States, by more than a century.

Robert A Hall, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Cornell University, has established that Scandinavian seafarers reached present-day Minnesota, 2,000 miles west of Newfoundland, in 1362.

Professor Hall bases his conclusions on study of a runestone discovered in 1898 by a farmer called Olof Ohman near Kensington, in the central lakes area of Minnesota state. Ohman found the Kensington Runestone, as it has become known, attached to the roots of a tree. The inscription on the stone, which weighs 200 pounds, reads: "Eight Goths and 22 Northmen on discovery voyage from Vinland over the west we had camp and finished one day after we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM [Ave Maria] save from evil have 10 men by the sea to look after our ship 14 days' journey from this island year 1362".

Academic opinion since Ohman's find has see-sawed. In 1938 Minnesota's Stonehenge - thousands go and see it every year - was declared genuine by the Smithsonian Institute. Then in the 1950s academic opinion tilted towards the conclusion that Ohman was a clever forger.

In the more obscure recesses of academia the runestone debate has been as intense as the debate today over the guilt or innocence of O J Simpson.

Professor Hall believes he has now settled the matter. His findings, reached after more than 25 years of investigation, are published in a new book, The Kensington Runestone: Authentic and Important.

Reached at home in Ithaca, New York state, yesterday, Professor Hall said he had two reasons to believe the runestone was the real thing.

"Very detailed study of the inscription definitely shows the language is medieval. There are no Anglicisms, no anachronisms, no modernisms at all. It's medieval and only medieval. Secondly, we now know a great deal about the story of the discovery. To me there is no question that the stone was embedded very tightly in the roots of the tree and definitely found in what archeologists call a 'sealed stratum'."

Professor Hall simply does not believe that Ohman, who only had nine months of formal education, could have had any knowledge of what he calls "medieval graffiti". "It would have required at least three or four professors from Scandinavia at that time to carry out so convincing a forgery," he said.

As to how the Norse Americans made it to Kensington, Professor Hall believes they travelled from Greenland into Hudson Bay (the "sea" of the runestone inscription that was "14 days' journey" away), then south into the Nelson River and through Lake Winnipeg to the Red River, whose tributaries wind down to the spot where they carved their message for posterity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen