(Alexandria, Minn.) – The historic relic housed at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minn., is back in the spotlight thanks to a new book. The official launch party for The Last Kings of Norse America: Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire took place the afternoon of May 10, 2012, at the Runestone Museum.
Dozens of people turned out to hear the presentation made by authors Robert G. Johnson of Minnetonka, Minn., and his daughter, Janey Westin of Edina, Minn. Johnson is a professor of geophysics at the University of Minnesota. Westin is a professional stone letter carver who has studied medieval writings extensively.
“For years, historians have questioned whether two runic stones, one found in western Minnesota and one on the coast of Maine, are legitimate medieval runestones, and have dismissed them as hoaxes. But after examining the runes on both stones and studying the time period during which we believe they were created, there is no doubt in my mind that they are the real deal,” she told the crowd.
"There is substantial documentation showing that these are authentic discoveries, Puzzling Scandinavian historical documents of that time only make good sense now that we know more of the details of the expedition, as found on the two runestones," added Johnson.
The Last Kings of Norse America: Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire connects the runestones to a Norse expedition to North America, documented by a 1354 Royal Proclamation. Johnson explained that both the Kensington stone, found in 1898 on a settler’s farm near Kensington, Minn., and Spirit Pond runestone, found 73 years later on coastal Maine, were memorials to the men lost during an expedition to North America. The authors say the trip was led by Haakon VI, son of Magnus, King of Sweden and Norway, and the Honorable Paul Knutson, a king’s law speaker in Norway, who was in command.
Westin explained the key to accurately translating the runic inscriptions was recognizing that many of the words were abbreviated in medieval style. Using that knowledge, she was able to restore them to their unabbreviated forms. Her translations of both stones are published in the book.
In her review of The Last Kings of Norse America: Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire, Sue Carlson, editor and president of the New England Antiquities Research Association said, "The Last Kings of Norse America explores a plausible 14th-century visit to North America by young Haakon VI, heir to the Norwegian crown. The authors weave excellent historical research and controversial Norse findings in North America with an in-depth linguistic study to present an adventure of travel and tragedy.”
Marguerite Ragnow, who has a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies, and is curator of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, wrote the forward for the book.
The Last Kings of Norse America: Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire is available for purchase in select bookstores, as well as online from Beaver’s Pond Books at www.beaverspondbooks.com. It is also available through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and via the author’s website, www.thelastkingsofnorseamerica.com.
About the Authors
Robert G. Johnson received his Ph.D. in physics from Iowa State University. After a puzzle-solving career in industrial research at Honeywell, he joined the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Minnesota to work on the mystery of past climate variations. The American runestone controversy was just another perplexing problem with a solution that resulted from a joint ten-year effort with co-author L.J. (Janey) Westin. Johnson has published many research papers and one book: Secrets of the Ice Ages: the Role of the Mediterranean Sea in Climate Change (Glenjay Publishing, 2002).
Initially a professional calligrapher, Janey Westin pursued paleographic studies of medieval manuscripts, stone inscriptions, the structure of letterforms, and the tools and materials of the trade. This work expanded into stone letter carving and sculpting. She has carved letters smaller than an inch and up to two feet high in limestone, marble, granite, quartzite, bluestone, sandstone, slate and more. Westin is a longstanding Portfolio member of The Colleagues of Calligraphy, her regional guild. She has taught calligraphy, letter carving, and sculpting at international calligraphy conferences, at stone sculpting symposiums in Colorado and Indiana and at local venues in Minnesota. Westin studied calligraphy at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and has a B.A. in Japanese from the University of Minnesota. Her studio, Paper & Stone, is located in Edina, Minnesota.
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