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Old 21st September 2009, 08:56 AM   #1
Volanova
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Runestones and East Coast Towers

So I was watching a show on the History Channel the other day that really got the skeptical brain neurons going. They were discussing connections between the Newport Tower (a stone structure in Newport, RI) and the so-called Kensington Runestone. The Newport Tower is purported by certain individuals to be a medieval construct, possibly by Viking explorers. The more logical explanation that is supported by historical record is that it is a 17th century windmill. The show claimed that a somewhat oddly shaped keystone in an arch is illuminated by the sun on the winter solstice. If the video they showed is accurate, then it only illuminates about half of it, and appears to be more coincidence than anything. They jumped to the conclusion that they keystone was egg shaped intentionally to represent "the sacred feminine" and was a Templar sign. They then proceeded to link it to the Kensington Runestone, an item supposedly unearthed in 1898 by a farmer in Minnesota. They linked it by stating that if one draws a line between the tower's keystone in question through the opposite arch, it goes towards the city where the runestone was found. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Kensington Runestone, the runestone has been widely discredited by Scandinavian linguists as a 19th century hoax, using runes to replace latin lettering for a variation on modern Swedish. Considering the large amount of Swedes living in Minnesota at the time, it wasn't hard to find plenty of individuals quite fluent in this language.

Obviously, these connections are stretches, and it takes some serious leaps of logic to make them. But even assuming both the tower and runestone are objects of medieval origin, it still doesn't make sense that Templars fleeing to America to escape the Church's persecution would necessarily be the ones that built them. And why would Templars be leaving Viking runestones lying around?

I must say, even when the History Channel was top loaded with WW2 and Civil War Programming, it was at least commenting on actual history, not pseudo-historical claims of Templar exploration of the New World. Their producers have developed a strange obsession with conspiracies relating to Freemasons and Templars. Only a few days before this was a show featuring some fringe crackpot theories about Masonic intent to take over the world. You know you're getting good history when you're interviewing guys in leather vests, gaudy American flag shirts and bolo ties commenting on the conspiracy of the 1 dollar bill and others with a wild look in their eye railing against the Masonic run government...

(First post, by the way!)
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Old 21st September 2009, 01:15 PM   #2
NoZed Avenger
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Welcome.

And yeah, the runestones were discussed a while back, and it looks pretty clear (IIRC) they were fakes. The line-drawing exercise seems especially bad -- as a show of how bad many of these types of inviestigations go when looking at historic sites, I had a friend once turn in a paper "proving" the Univeristy was laid out to "obviously" take advantage of astronomical lines and star sightings by picking and choosing similar types of supposedly significant measurements.
(to be clear -- the paper was tongue-in-cheek and the professor has a similar sense of humor)

Fun stuff.
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Old 22nd September 2009, 07:36 AM   #3
Volanova
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Yeah, the point isn't really even the fact that they're fakes or hoaxes. To be honest, a show on it could spur some interesting discussion of Nordic exploration of the east coast and how far they actually did go. The thing is, they failed not only to present the prevailing theory that the runestone is in fact a hoax, but they made wild extrapolations as to its origin. The same goes for the Newport Tower. It could be an amusing spur off of a discussion of Viking settlements in Vinland, saying that some people believe it to possibly be a tower of Viking origin, although the prevailing evidence suggests it is a 17th century English construction.

It's a travesty though that the History Channel is presenting these absurd claims as fact without any serious opposition. To try to connect them as some massive part of a Templar/Masonic conspiracy to hide the holy grail and create the United States though is even worse. Connections can be made between anything if one looks hard enough...sort of like the 6 degrees of separation game. I know a number of individuals who don't have a background in science or history or another field that requires critical evaluation of such claims that often watch the History Channel (and others) and take what they hear at face value, believing everything that's said. It's not necessarily unreasonable to expect someone to do that, either, as deservedly or not such 'documentaries' have an aire of authority about them that most people simply accept. It's very unfortunate, really.
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Old 24th September 2009, 12:12 PM   #4
dudalb
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If you want a real hoot, read some Barry Fell. The guy thinks just about everybody and his dog visited America before Columbus.

BTW I suspect that Minnesota has always..and continues to have a HUGE population of people of Scandinavian descent had a little to do with a Viking "artifact" being conviently unearthed there.....
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Old 14th December 2009, 01:56 PM   #5
AcuteEnigma2
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Didn't the History Channel spew that 2012 End Of The World "documentary" too?
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Old 14th December 2009, 09:01 PM   #6
tyr_13
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Just watch the segment in that show on Oak Island. That's the level of this show. If they were applying that level of 'critical thinking' to the rest of what they presented, then the entire show is pretty worthless.

And it's a windmill. All the evidence is it being a windmill. They know who built it and when. To entertain it being anything else is stretching to support something with little support.
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Old 14th April 2010, 01:09 PM   #7
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Archaeology magazine just came out with a long article about the show and the Kensington Rune Stone.
May/June 2010 issue.
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