Adam R. Kaul

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Provencher, Ronald

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Kensington Rune Stone; Inscriptions; Runic--Minnesota; Vikings--Folklore; Viking antiquities--Minnesota; Vikings--Minnesota; Folklore--Minnesota; America--Discovery and exploration--Norse


This thesis explores the ethnohistorical phenomena that have surrounded the Kensington Runestone and its related artifacts for the last one hundred years. The text of the Kensington Runestone states that eight Goths and twenty-two Norwegians sailed into Minnesota in 1362 where ten of their number were killed. The discovery of this runestone on a small farm in west central Minnesota in 1898 resulted in a controversial, 100-year-old debate between people who accept it as an authentic historical document and those who debunk it as a nineteenth-century fraud. Interest in the subject has waxed and waned in a cyclical manner through the century. In fact, even at present, the debate over the runestone’s authenticity rages on. Amateur Viking researchers currently attempt to locate and identify Viking sites in Minnesota. Moreover, the folk in the west central Minnesota region actively celebrate the story of the runestone and the Viking visit of 1362 through tourism, museums, businesses, churches, the Internet, parks, festivals, humor, and poetry. Although many works have been written on various aspects of the subject, a folkloristic analysis is nonexistent, and while this approach has been suggested in the past, it has never been carried out. Therefore, the present thesis explores the ethnohistorical phenomena surrounding the Kensington Runestone using this methodology. In doing so, one discovers the means for and the meaning behind the perpetuation of Minnesota’s Viking and runestone lore. Although the subject is complex and multilayered, I am able to conclude that the lore satisfies various issues of identity. First, it has helped to formulate an ethnic identity. Secondly, a religious affiliation with the lore buttresses a local Catholic and Protestant identification. Thirdly, this lore complex provides a salient avenue for an exploration of the theoretical differences between the “scientific establishment” and “folk science.” Finally, it helps formulate a distinct regional identity.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [132]-143)


vii, 143 pages




Northern Illinois University

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