I have always been interested in the Vikings, especially their visits to North America and the encounters with the natives (Skraelings). As if to spur this on, I was commissioned to build a model of a Viking Longship for our Local Scandinavian Cultural Center. Near the same time I obtained a copy of the book Westviking by Farley Mowat (1965) and after reading it, Peg and I decided to take a vacation to Newfoundland where we would visit L Anse Aux Meadows, the only verified Norse site in North America. What we found there and the subsequent results of my research is remarkable.
PF1. Not likely. Prove to me that it is.
|The Beardmore relics|
|'Eddy' Dodd (left) with prospecting partner Fletcher Gill|
|ROM officials examining the artifacts|
|The discovery site then...|
(Photo by E. J. Lavoie)
|1930s newspaper article|
|Probable Routes of the Norsemen; Jefferys, Charles W. 1942 The Picture Gallery of Canadian History Volume 1, p.61|
Sword, Axe and Shield Rangel 1930-1931
This is one of the more controversial of the Norse finds in North America. The items themselves are genuine but it is the nature of the discovery itself that is in dispute. The sword was dated to 850-1025 while the axe and rangel were 10th century.
In 1936 Jim (Eddy) Dodd sold the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) these three items with the claim that he found them in 1930 or 1931 while prospecting south west of Beardmore, Ontario. He had found a large rock with a tree stump at its base bearing a quartz vein. When he blew the stump he found the artifacts in the schist (rubble). Dodd stated the sword was broken in removal. Thinking they were 'old indian artifacts' he set them aside where they remained for a number of years. He showed them to numerous people during this time and claimed later he would have sold them for the price of two packages of cigarettes. After 5 years sitting in his basement, where they were nearly thrown out by his wife, schoolteacher O. C. Elliot viewed and identified the artifacts as Norse. Dodd ended up selling these artifacts to the ROM. He initially asked $400 for them but was given $500. The museum had budgeted this amount for the purchase of some Norse artifacts, regardless of where they came from. The fact that they had a North American origin was just icing on the cake.
Almost immediately claims that Dodd planted these items rose in dispute and they were withdrawn from display at the museum although the ROM initially defended the artifacts and the finding of them.
Dodd was accused of purchasing these items from a Norwegian immigrant in the 1920s and putting them aside for later 'discovery'. There has been much discussion about this both pros and cons with some unconfirmed sources pinpointing exact dates and persons.
A report stated that these artifacts were seen in Dodd's basement in the 1920s although addresses are confusing. One individual who supposedly said this was interviewed later and stated it was untrue. Also, as Dodd was a railroad employee he was required to have his name and address accurate in the telephone book and none of these claims can be verified including those of a former landlord who insisted the artifacts belonged to him. These claims were found to be baseless and it seems the landlord just wanted 'a piece of the action'.
As happened with the finder of the KRS, attacks on Dodd's character came into play. One strong bit of heresay circulated that Dodd created this hoax to 'show those museum guys'. In one brilliant piece of sarcasm it was stated that the Beardmore issue was finally solved when a drinking buddy of Dodd stated that he was 'known as a liar. Issue closed.'
Probably the most damning evidence came from Dodd's step son Walter who claimed in 1956 or 1957 that he was present when Dodd planted the artifacts and that he was afraid to speak up when he was younger. To counter this Dodd's wife, Walter's own mother stated that he disliked Dodd severely and made these claims simply to get back at Dodd.
In his book 'Westward to Vinland' Helge Ingstad stated that although genuine, he believed the Beardmore relics were planted but on the other hand Hjalmar Holand thought it was a proper find not related to the KRS as the artifacts were dated much older at 900-1100.
The Canadian Museum in Ottawa, where these artifacts are on display since the 1990s offers no comment at present as to their pedigree.
Here are somer impressive pictures. These are replicas of the artifacts given to the Nipigon Museum. They are identical to the originals:
Nipigon Museum Replicas
Sword, Axe and Shield rangel 1930-1931
Prospector Jim Dodd claims:
Apart from finding the above items in the schist he discovered what appeared to be the impression of a wooden shield. On top of the shield was a 'shallow bowl of iron' which shattered to pieces when he touched it.
Dodd stated the 'Archaeology fellow' went to the site and found more items. He was told that plans were being made to protect it and possibly films would be made to document the location.
At one point, as a lot of the controversy on his find began, he was asked to sign an affidavit, which he initially refused citing he was not interested in receiving all this attention. This was eventually signed however.
Dodd's business partner Fletcher Gill claims to have found an artifact that he used as a pick until it was lost.
J.W. Curran, publisher of the Sault Ste. Marie Star, Judge Alexander McComber of Port Arthur and Dr. George E. Eakins of Port Arthur examined the site and made a report to the ROM.
Curran who claims to have seen the iron impression of the sword in the rock schist concluded the site was genuine and that Dodd could have possibly found a grave or abandonded campsite. There was no mention of bones by Dodd. If he did find bones, would he have even reported them?
The Fenwick Papers, donated in 1993 to the Nipigon Museum were published on the museum's blog in 2012. They give a precise account of this turbulently subjective matter on a day by day basis from 1937 to 1948.
Here are some good links:
The Fenwick Papers
Beardmore Relics - Hoax or History
E. J. Lavoie Blog
With our modern day knowledge the fact that the Norse or Vikings explored parts of the lake and river systems of northern Ontario is not inconceivable. With a viable presence in Minnesota and trade centers in the north they would have been looking for a more convenient route to James and Hudson Bay rather than the Red and Churchill river systems. North America is a vast land.
This is certainly not a novel theory. Those who took Dodd's finds seriously were making suggestions within years of this event. There are articles by Dr. C. T. Currelly, Professor W. S. Wallace, and 0. C. Elliott in The Canadian Historical Review, March, 1939, and Sept., 1941, and "Here was Vinland," by James W. Curran, Sault Ste. Marie Daily Star, 1939.
As for the dating, it is important to keep in mind that Norse warriors would hand down their weapons from father to son and so the time frame of the sword for example may not neccesarily be when the event took place.
Did Dodd find these artifacts or did he plant them?
There was the report by Walter that he planted these items but no one ever witnessed them being found. The first we hear of them officially is in 1936 at the ROM after they have supposedly sat around for 5 years. There would have been no need of a 'planting'. Dodd's lack of knowledge yet perfect description of a shield boss is intriguing when iron bits are later found by credible witnesses.
All in all this site certainly needs further looking into.
The Canadian Museum should have the Beardmore site on file with complete documentation about it for a comprehensive examination in future.
Geographical location: 49.593,-87.964
....to be continued.