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|
|Copper Harbor ship pictogram|
|Raven and Odin's Cross pictograms|
|Ship under plexiglass|
|Colonial Trade Axes|
|More early trade axes (Photo:Here Was Vinland - Curran)|
|Viking Axes (Illus: The British Museum)|
|The 1920 Mora Axe (Photo: O. Allman)|
|The Piers Journal, Morrison County, Minnesota from November 1920|
|Close up of article - top|
|Close up of article - bottom|
|Drawing of the Cambridge halberd (Here Was Vinland - Curran)|
|J. E. Dodd Affidavit|
|J. E. Dodd Affidavit Part 2|
|James Watson Curran|
|Image of the Lendbreen Pass area, Norway (Smithsonian Magazine)|
|Numbered areas above (Smithsonian Magazine)|
|Traverse City Runestone|
|A sixteenth century Norwegian battle axe (Photo - The Norwegian Battle Axe)|
|Batchawana Bay Axe (Curran)|
|Google satellite image at Traverse Bay|
|Underwater mammoth carving at Traverse Bay|
|Underwater stone structures at Traverse Bay (History Radar)|
|Gros Cap Spearpoint (Curran)|
|Affidavit of the two teens who found the Gros Cap Spearpoint|
|The Portlock copper spud (Curran)|
|Comparison of Batchawana Bay axe with Hudson Bay Company Axe (Curran)|
|An interesting Soapstone carving in the museum at Churchill, Manitoba (Gary)|
|The mooring stone at Berens River (Holand)|
|Sometimes adverse weather conditions....|
|....can make for a difficult viewing of a mooring stone|
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
Reported by Anderson in 1994 this horn was found at a 30" depth in the ground and is apparently dated 1317. There is also a report of one found in 1951 along a roadside but this one was carbon dated to 1920. There is a strong Scandinavian presence in the area. No further information is available.
Geographical location: 42.371,-87.954
Copper Harbor Michigan
There are a large number of petroglyphs at this site but the most striking is that of a ship. Distinctly visible is the planking, square rigged sail with sewing details and the serpent prow and tail.Also at this site is petroglyphs of a cross within a circle and a raven. There is a curiously engraved bear present as well. All these figures hint of Norse interaction.
I could not find any good reports of credible age examination but the lichen growth in the photograph indicates some history and they all appear to be the same age.
This is an interesting article expounding this petroglyph to be Scandinavian from the 3000 BC Copper Culture era:
Copper culture trade with ancient Scandinavia
Here is another good article on the site:
Sadly (and pardon my language) some individuals who are useless pieces of weasel shit have defaced some of the pictograms and a plexiglass plate had to be placed over the ship for protection. This does make it difficult for photography however.
There is also mention of mooring stones in the area.
Geographical location: 47.469,-87.913
Jacksonport, Door County, Wisconsin
An interesting newspaper article about a 1912 find. Must read:
Viking Sword Found
Geographical location: 44.978,-87.194
From this point I am going to add a vignette every month. Featured will be something interesting pertaining to Vinland or Viking culture.
Since there has been a large number of axes turn up I feel it is a good idea to look at colonial trade axes. Trade goods have been present for centuries and it is important to be aware of this fact as we look at the items in this blog.
Colonial era trade axes
The thing about research is it always seems to keep turning up more information and the deeper one delves the more subjects are found that need to be further researched. What was originally a small project listing a couple dozen artifacts has now encompassed hundreds of items. Trying to find documentation on some upcoming subjects I found more items that we need to backtrack and look at. Also, I received a very exciting message recently. Here goes:
Holmes City, Minnesota
The Minneapolis Tribune reported on April 3, 1938 of the finding of the rotted remains of a large boat on the north side of Grant Lake 12' above the water level. It had bowed ends. The find was reported by Holand. No further information is available at this time.
Holmes City is a small picturesque town on the north edge of Grant Lake. They are almost half way between Alexandria and the Kensington Runestone site.
Geographical location: 45.833, -95.549
I recently received an interesting e mail from a gentleman who reads this blog. I have copied it word for word other than editing some small parts.
My great-great grandfather (Otto Allman) was a farmer in Mora, MN and was the sheriff of Kanabec county for several years.
I write to you, because he also found what was believed to be a Viking era axe in Mora, Minnesota when breaking a new piece of land. The year would have been 1920.
From what I know it's now in the Carnegie museum.
Also included is the newspaper article that detailed the find.
"Ancient Stone Axe is found -
Implements of the remote age are occasionally found in Minnesota, and the number that have been found was increased recently by the finding of a stone axe on the Otto Allman farm in Comfort township, Kanabec county. Mr. Allman was breaking a piece of new land on his place when he noticed a curious looking object embedded in the soil where it had been uncovered by a plowshare. He dug it out and found it to be a stone axe.
The implement was fashioned from a very hard, blueish kind of stone, weighs three pounds, and was perfectly proportioned and very smoothly polished. How the hard substance could be fashioned in such a perfect manner is a puzzle, especially, with the crude tools that must have been employed. The axe was made to be holding in the hand, instead of having a handle attached, as the extension to the part above the blade was plainly designed to fit the hand
It is not believed that these stone implements were made by Indians as they knew nothing of the art of making anything except arrow and spearheads from stone, when the early explorers first came to this region.
Mr. Allman is a well known citizen of Kanabec county, and is a director of the farmers' cooperative creamery at Mora. - Milaca County Times".
This axe is of an identical pattern to a number that we have already looked at with just slight enough differences to indicate it is also hand forged. A miscommunication occurred in calling this a stone axe. Perhaps it had a heavy patina originally from being burnt or such but later cleaned off. It is obviously metal. This error probably caused it to be overlooked in the general flurry of Minnesota artifacts that were turning up at the time.
In comparison to the other Mora axe that was found in 1933, the shape of the beard is distinctly different, the metal 'adjustment' plate on the back is smaller and the haft is at a lesser angle. The weight is consistent with the other axes of its type that have been found. 3 to 3 1/2 pounds.
In 1939 Curran reports a similar specimen in Lillehammer, Norway called the 'helmet crusher'. Also, The Norwegian Battle Axe is an article relative to our interests. Notice the extended socket or sleeve that the wood handle fits into as well as the angle the haft meets the axehead at.
Both axe finds are near the Snake River which flows into the St. Croix and subsequently the Mississippi.
Geographical location: 45.861, -93.219
The drawing of this item is like the Minnesota halberds except for a rivet (screw) in the middle which is common on the earlier version of the American Tobacco Company Tobacco Cutter. The point also seems to shows something cut off where the flange would be attached on the cutter.
Geographical location: 43.008, -89.036
*J. J. Jacobs was the name of the man who witnessed the rust marks of the sword in the stone layer.
*It was Professor McIlwaith who in 1937 found a piece of rusted iron that was said to be part of the shield boss. J. W. Curran witnessed the finding of another piece in 1938. They are housed with the other Beardmore Artifacts.
*Affidavits are present from many of the individuals involved in this find. Plates of affidavit are provided in Curran's book Here Was Vinland published in 1939.
Geographical location: 49.593,-87.964
Here are some odd facts pertaining to Vinland that I came across while cleaning up some of my notes.
*The Bubonic plague reached Norway in the 1350s and recovery was in the 1360s.
*Guidrid Thorbjornsdottir, mother of Snorri Karlsefnison and wife of Thorfinn Karlsefni travelled to Rome on a pilgrimage in the 1020s after she became a widow.
*Erik, King of Norway in 1289 sent one 'Rolf' to Iceland to recruit men 'to go to the new land'.
*Reported by Adam of Bremen: King Sven Estridson of Denmark claimed that 'Vinland was a well known place from the many people who have travelled there and come back.
*In 1294 the Norwegian king made trade with Greenland a monopoly.
*In 1535 Jacques Cartier reported "Donnacona (of Quebec) has told us he had been in the country of the Saguenay in which are infinite rubies, gold and other riches, and that there are white men, who clothe themselves with woolen cloth, even as we do in France."
Since doing research on some of the upcoming artifacts and running across more information on the Beardmore finds, I think now is a good time to look at this man:
J. W. Curran
James Watson Curran (1865-1952) was the owner and editor of the Sault Star,a weekly newspaper out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Born in Ireland, Curran came to Canada in 1873 and began working for his father's paper, the Essex Chronicle in 1881. He worked as editor for the Orillia News Letter, the Toronto Empire and the Montreal Herald before purchasing the Sault Star.
During his time in Northern Ontario he became a great friend of the First Nations peoples and Curran was given an honorary chieftainship in 1923.
His research into wolves resulted in his 1940 book Wolves Don't Bite and his insistence that these animals were over villified. During the depression he offered an incredible $100 challenge to anyone who could prove having been 'et by a wolf'.
In his examination of the Beardmore site Curran personally witnessed the finding of a shield boss fragment. He is mentioned in the Dodd affidavit.
In Curran's study of the Cree language he discovered their word for oak (wamistikose-watik) translated as wooden boat wood. As a point of interest, oak does not grow in the traditional Cree lands. He began the examination of 'loan' words in the different First Nations languages and looked into the "white indians" of Hudson Bay who apparently boasted features much like the Mandan of the plains.
Researching many of the other Norse finds around the Great Lakes, Curran propounded the theory that this was where Vinland was located and wrote Here Was Vinland in 1939. He suggested that the Norse of the sagas came through the Ginnungagap (Hudson Strait), down through Hudson Bay and James Bay into the Great Lakes area.
Curran even suggested the Irish were in North America before the Norse.Being quite far fetched for the period, now with Sutherland's findings in the north he seems to be not too far off course, much like Mowat with The Farfarers.
Coming at the outbreak of World War Two and being quite extraordinary for the time, his ideas were relegated to the back burner in lieu of the more traditional Christopher Columbus Viewpoint. Many of his theories and suppositions are very much in line with current thinking although Curran did miss the critical impact that the Minnesota finds make on his theory. Nevertheless, his contributions to the correct history of this planet should certainly not be overlooked.
Reported to be of copper. No further information is available.
Geographical location: 46.543, -87.395
*Some interesting finds from the Lendbreen Pass, Norway. Thanks Terry.
As the ice melts
*Viking steel contained the spirits of the dead. The bones of ancestors or in some cases valiant enemies were ground and incorporated into the sword making process. Of course carbon being a hardening agent, the improved metal certainly did have imbued mystical qualities. It would be interesting to learn just exactly what and how many bones were used. Are there any steel making experimental archaeologists with a couple skeletons around?
Here is a documented item of interest that may add credence to the Beardmore relics.
In 1918 F. W. Skully of the Dominion Police (absorbed by the NWMP to become the RNWMP) filed a report of examining two dilapidated boats of unusual construction deep in a swamp. Wood and nail samples were taken and sent to the National Geographic Society.
No reply was ever received by Skully and the current location of these samples is unknown but presumably somewhere at the National Geographic Society, if indeed they still exist.
Kowkash is under 100 Kilometers northeast of Beardmore. Nearby waterways link into the Albany river and subsequently James Bay. That early explorers became lost in the myriad of rivers, streams, lakes, muskegs and swamps of northern Ontario is quite believable. Just have a look at the google map of the area.
Geographical location: 50.243,-87.225
....and a hundred years later:
Traverse City, Michigan
This Greywacke stone was found in Traverse City, Michigan in 2018 at a depth of 2' to 4' below grade level by a professional geologist, Darrell Potter. He was excavating for a house in a former orchard area on a hillside overlooking West Grand Traverse Bay that connects to Lake Michigan. This area could have been a pathway leading from the Bay inland to other locations.
"As a geologist I brought it home to use as a garden border. Since it was covered in a muddy exterior I hosed off the rock and cleaned out the rune with a nylon brush.
...The rock has a section broken off the top which looks like a single blow from a hammer or other device. This would show off the darker brown interior from the weathered exterior. This would make it stand out to notice by anyone seeing it. No other material was found at the site, with the exception of a mortar used to grind grains."
Darrell goes on to suggest some theories on the stone. Initially considering it might be a grave marker for a person with the initials IL he has also put forth the theory that this could be a marker from the Knudsen expedition in search of the missing Greenlanders. At a 180 degree angle rotation of the image the stone may show a hastily carved K and could have been left on a well used trail to signify that this area had been searched.
Darrell sent his information to Michigan State and the University of Michigan Archaeology departments and was told that there was no Norse presence known in this region.
In the photograph, the three marks at the upper left may be from the excavator and show the true darker nature of the stone. The brown color would be the stain from being buried. The cuts in the stone, especially the lower part, contain the discoloration of the rest of the stone so they are certainly not fresh. Also, there are some curved cuts on the lower portion of the stone that seem to be older than the runic cuts.
Norse? Earlier? Later? New World? Old World? This stone is certainly a prime candidate for further examinations and tests.
Anyone wishing to learn more about this find may contact Darrell Potter directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geographical location: 44.763,-85.620
Batchawana Bay, Ontario
Less than 100 kilometers north of Sault Ste Marie along the eastern shore of Lake Superior, this axe was found on an island in the bay. It was analysed and found to be made of very poor quality iron.
Last known location was the Royal Ontario Museum, now the Canadian Musem.
Geographical location: 46.927, -84.605
After having checked some notes and doing a bit of 'googliting'a couple more items of interest turned up in Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan.
Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan
Rock carvings 1870
Documented by Ramsdell, Parker, Buchanan. No further information at this time. These may be the same as the underwater finds of a mammoth petroglyph and stone structures however.
Geographical location: 45.088,-85.630
Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan
Sunken Port 2021
If one examines this intriguing image the desire to become an underwater archaeologist emerges. What appears to be a sunken dock or line of buildings can be seen with what seems to be a 35' longship partially buried nearby. Another larger ship (?) can be seen at the lower right.
If I ever take up diving I think I would check this place out. As a matter of fact, the entire Traverse Bay area warrants examination above and below the water.
Geographical location: 44.899, -85.542
Gros Cap, Ontario
This 13" spearhead was found on an underwater ledge by Arnold Perri and Lloyd Cook on the east shore of Lake Superior. While they were swimming they discovered the point beneath some rocks. The spearhead was taken to Curran who documented their find. Current location is unknown but I would suspect it is in the Canadian Museum.
Geographical location: 46.534,-84.593
Goulais Bay, Ontario
Described as being 3 1/4" x 2" and of flat iron badly rusted. The firestriker was broken during cleaning. It's current location is unknown but possibly in the Canadian Museum.
Geographical location: 46.707, -84.478
Copper Spud 1923
A spud is a form of socketed axe. They are a very common occurrence with the Copper Culture of the Great Lakes area (7500-500 BCE).
J. W. Curran however was of the opinion that this particular piece was Norse since the spud was cast and considering the circumstances of its find. He made a very convincing argument that the Norse would use any resource they would find and this area is bountiful in copper.
Geographical location: 46.341, -83.890
Copper Island, Ontario
In 1938 a J. G. Molinski reported finding a sword like the Beardmore relic in a gravel bed while skidding logs. No further information is known.
Geographical location: 46.318,-83.972
I have a new hobby. Googliting. Using Google Satellite images to search areas of interest and I am not the only one. This is a way to turn up some amazing finds. Look at what they are doing in Egypt with more pyramids and the most amazing diggings at Saqquara.
When I hear of artifacts, sites, stones, markers etc. one of the first things I like to do is look at the site and what is available for water in the area. Watercourses give us some answers to where and what the Norse and those more ancient were doing there.
Granted watercourses will change over time but in a few instances I found that less than the length of a football field separates the waterways of the Mississippi from those of the Great Lakes.
Here is one I tracked: Mississippi River - St. Croix River - Kettle River - Moose Horn River - 300 Feet - Black Hoof River - Nemadji River - Lake Superior.
There are more routes to look at if one is inclined to do some tracking. Also, for our immediate purposes the waterways from Hudson Bay to Lake Winnipeg, Winnipeg River to Lake Superior, Lake Winnipeg down the Red River to it's base running into the Whetstone River, Cedar River (Iowa) towards Kensington, Buffalo River (Minnesota) towards Kensington, Lake Superior towards Kensington and Lake Superior to James Bay all have significance to our story.
I think it is important to look at a few additional items that have emerged in the west since I started this blog. This first one is quite extreme and brings up the question: Did the Norse actually find a northwest passage?
In 1928 Professor Oluf Opsjon claims to have read markings on a stone found within the city limits that described a battle where 12 Norsemen were killed and subsequently buried. The same Opsjon in 1919 claims he discovered lore about a fight between 31 Norse and the Clallarns, a local native tribe that occurred in AD 1010.
At the time, with the KRS having much dispute as to its genuinity and with the contemporary mindset, obviously Vikings on the west coast would be unheard of and met with complete scepticism.
Geographical location: 47.613, -122.482
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
2 Adzes similar to those displayed in the Royal Museum, Copenhagen were found deep in the ground in 1956. Current location is unknown but possibly the Prince Albert Historical Museum.
Geographical location: 53.216, -105.741
Leaf Rapids, Manitoba
In one of his books Hjalmar Holand relates about a very old and intriguing tale told in northern Manitoba. White Man Writing On Rock is supposed to be located at Leaf River Point. There is no Leaf River in Manitoba but there is a Leaf Rapids along the Churchill River system.
Geographical location: 56.462, -100.010
Warren Landing, Manitoba
Reported by Holand. No further information is available.
Geographical location: 53.696, -97.872
Berens River, Manitoba
This stone is situated on an island at the mouth of the river. Berens River is 75 miles southeast of Warren Landing. Under normal conditions this distance would be considered a 'daghrise'or day's journey.
Geographical location: 52.349, -97.019
....to be continued.