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 historcal 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 Greenland 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 inscriptions on the Spirit Pond and Kensington runestones enable the authors to reconstruct the fascinating story of Magnus and his expedition more than a century before Columbus left the shores of Spain.
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 University 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).
"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 fascinating read." -Roger A. MacDonald MD author of A Country Doctor's Casebook Minnesota Historical Society Press