Fallen Kinsmen, always valiant fellows. A roaring sea struck seventeen dead. Hail to you, Weeping Fountains! These are the first words in a rigorous translation of the 1362 memorial poem inscribed on the Spirit Pond runestone, found on the coast of Maine in 1971. This translation climaxed a decade of histor¬ical investigations by authors Johnson and Westin in which they address a 450 year-gap in North American history between the 1492 voyage of Columbus and the Vinland voyages of Leif Eriksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni shortly after 1000 ad. After the Vinland voyages the Greenlanders developed a lucrative trade in North American furs, marketed in Norway and taxed by the king. But after 1300 a cooling climate caused the Green¬land merchants to migrate to North America and the trade died. To regain the trade and expand his empire, in 1356 King Magnus of Norway and Sweden sent his son, young King Haakon VI, on an expedition to North America with Commander Paul Knutson. The inscrip¬tions on the Spirit Pond and Kensington runestones enable the authors to recon¬struct the fascinating story of Magnus and his expedition, more than a century before Columbus left the shores of Spain.
About the Authors
Robert G. Johnson received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University. After a puzzle-solving career in industrial research, he joined the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the Univer¬sity 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 letter¬forms, 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 sympo¬siums in Colorado and Indiana, and at local venues in Minnesota. Westin attended 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.
What's being said
“Epic in scope, insightful, imaginative, venturesome, and provocative—if this groundbreaking book about the Norse in America before Columbus does not cause a paradigm shift in your thinking, you need to check your pulse.”
—Herbert R. Cederberg, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of History, University of Wisconsin
“. . . Excavations in Greenland in the 1990’s at Gård Under Sandet of a farm complex also reveal contact with North America. . . .Excavators found fibers from bison and brown bear fur, which ‘suggest that these Greenlanders traveled to North America.’ . . . Coupled with the artifacts and trade materials found in the Canadian arctic, it seems increasingly likely that there was a larger Norse presence in North America than originally believed. Johnson and Westin suggest that we consider an even larger archaeological footprint.”
—From the Foreword by Dr. Marguerite Ragnow
“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.”
—Sue Carlson, editor and president of the New England Antiquities Research Association
“In The Last Kings of Norse America, authors R. G. Johnson and Janey Westin present the case for a vibrant presence of Norsemen in North America centuries before Columbus. By calling on linguistics, by extensive study of medieval Scandinavian history, by a working knowledge of stone calligraphy, by field work over several years, and most cogently, by application of the scientific method, they flesh out an obscure part of American history. The authors demonstrate meticulous care and logic, and the result is a fasc-inating read.”
—Roger A. MacDonald, MD, author of A Country Doctor’s Casebook, Minnesota Historical Society Press