Open mindedness and skepticism

This will be my last post for Whats up archaeology. I know I didn’t meet the goal of two posts a week, but I really enjoyed the experience. This has definitely pushed me to improve my writing both in volume and quality (I hope). I will continue to write and post on my own blog “Field notes and Marginalia”. You can also follow me on Twitter (@tcuthbertson13) where every so often I say something intelligent. I know at least one other author is posting about pseudoarcheology this week, and really this is Sara’s bailiwick, but this is an increasingly important topic.


A few weeks ago, I engaged Scott Wolter of “Unearthed America” in a discussion regarding the Kensington Runestone. Wolter is a proponent of Templar/Freemason and or Norse pre-Columbian excursions to North America. Vikings did come to America before Columbus in around the year 1000 CE based on dating of the L’Anse Aux Meadows site, but it appears that their forays into the continent were limited to the areas surrounding that settlement as no other reliable evidence of the presence of Vikings has been discovered farther west than this. Additional evidence may have been found since the last time I’ve looked into it or may be found in the future; but at this time to speculate any more than that would be irresponsible.

The Kensington Runestone, from the Wikipedia article

The Kensington Runestone is a stone marker discovered in the late 19th century by a farmer in Kensington Minnesota with a runic inscription. The stone describes events that according to the inscription took place in 1362. The inscription claims that the presence of eight Geats [present day Swedish] and 22 Northmen [present day Norwegian] had made it this far into the continent. Wolter claims a Templar/Freemason connection here. After a nearly week long twitter thread I still don’t know why.

Wolter conducted a petrographic study of the weathering on stone, the results of which appear to have been published in his book “The Hooked X: Key to the Secret History of North America”. Full disclaimer I have not read the book or the full report but, from what I can gather posts on his blog he compared the weathering on the stone to weathering of a tombstone from the early 19th century from Hallowell, Maine. He insists that this a peer reviewed paper because some of his colleagues read the paper and gave him comments, one of which he published on his blog. I am dubious of this analog as its from a location that has nearly double the amount of annual precipitation fall and is marginally warmer [i]. I am unsure of the analog material, but I assume it is also greywacke like the Kensington stone. Linguistic and epigraphic analysis of the runes suggests that the inscription is a forgery based on irregularities in the characters used and word usage that doesn’t align with the date given in the inscription.

He related the presence of Viking/Templar/Freemason explorers around the great lakes to historical reports of blue-eyed Native Americans in the area and raised the idea of conducting DNA research on Native remains. I suggested that if he wanted to do that, he should contact the tribe for permission first but that they were unlikely to agree to let him do any testing. His response was that all the Mandan had been wiped out by small pox during the 19th century. My reply and his reply are below.

He also claimed the Okipa ; a Mandan ceremony based on their cosmology and creation story is a representation of the Biblical Exodus, suggesting that this was given to them by Templars.

I think that was about where Wolter diverted to the Old Stone Mill in Touro Park, Newport, Rhode Island. Another Templar/Freemason/Norse connection based on the architecture of the mill, which he insists is the nave of a Templar round church. He directed me to a project proposal by Chronognostic Research Foundation, a non-profit in Arizona that looks for pre-Columbian colonization of the Americas by western Europeans based on the work they have done. Gray and Pape appears to have supervised/conducted excavations at the tower for Chronognostic, I am currently in the process of tracking down the report. I may have to expand on this in a later article.

Here’s the problem with the interaction. Almost all the theories that Wolter put forward during our exchange come from and/or endorse colonialist though. If the stone is not a forgery it is a truly remarkable object, however we have no additional evidence to support its authenticity. Theories like this often feed into racist rhetoric like Wolter endorsed above. The concept of “blood purity” and “blood quantum” are based on the white supremacist theory of eugenics (here’s a good podcast about the concept). Arguments like this have been used for centuries to strip Native American tribes of their land. Whether he used the term “pure blood” out of ignorance or malice, he has a platform from which to spread information and is seen as authority, regardless of his actual professional credentials. Presenting theories like this as fact is irresponsible at best.

I like to try to stay open minded even when approached with outlier theories. The only way for the field to truly progress is to through inspect any line of evidence until it proves to be inconclusive or false. I encourage readers to view the evidence I have presented here, to do their own research, to draw their own conclusions, and comment here if you have information to add to the discussion. However, pseudoarcheology like this, and Ancient Aliens attempt to discredit the accomplishments of ancient, or non-western people by making the claims that they must have had outside help to create sites like Göbekli Tepe, or Serpent Mound, or really any ancient monumental site.

Think critically about any theory or evidence that is presented to you. The control of the historical narrative has real social and political consequences. We cannot let racially charged theories have control over mainstream media and should push back against them whenever we encounter them.

“But there’s another reason: Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”


-Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996, pg.25

[i] Glenwood, MN closest large city to Kensington: Avg. Ann. Temp.  43.6°F, Avg Ann. Precip 25.7 in. ; Augusta, ME closest large city to Hallowell: Avg. Ann. Temp.  45.65°F, Avg Ann. Precip 41.9 in. (https://www.usclimatedata.com/)

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