Kensington native, Dr. Aaron Moen to speak on controversial finding Sunday at the Dassel History Center
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Every October, the nation recognizes Columbus Day for the discovery of America by European explorer Christopher Columbus who “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” However, there are those, like Dr. Aaron Moen of Dassel, who dispute this observation.
Instead, it’s believed that the discovery of America came 130 years earlier by Scandinavian explorers as indicated by an inscription on a large stone found in the small town of Kensington, MN, located just west of Alexandria.
Known as the Kensington Runestone, the 200-pound stone was found in 1898 by the son of Olof Ohman, who was clearing land for spring planting.
According to the Kensington Area Heritage Society, the slab included an inscription of 12 lines using the runic alphabet.
A 1908 translation by researcher and writer of Norwegian immigrant history, Hjalmar Holand reads:
“8 goths and 22 northmen on discovery trip from Vinland of west. We had camp by two skeeries one day’s journey north from this stone. We were to fish one day after we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save from evil have 10 men by the see to look after our ship 14 day travel from this island. Year 1362.”
Both the legitimacy of the stone and the translation of the inscription on it have been in question by many skeptics, who have even deemed it as a hoax.
Moen, a Kensington native and retired professor of Cornell University, will share new evidence that supports the stone’s authenticity during a presentation at the Dassel History Center Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2 p.m.
About Dr. Aaron Moen
When it comes to the Kensington Runestone, one can say the subject hits close to home for Moen, who grew up just miles away from where the stone was discovered.
With 42 years combined teaching experience at the high school and college levels, Moen’s career actually began at Dassel High School in 1960, where he taught general science and biology for two years.
“I enjoyed teaching high school students, but I wanted to teach and do research at the university level,” Moen said.
After earning a master of science in education degree from St. Cloud State University in 1963, Moen went on to the University of Minnesota, where he became a doctor of philosophy in 1966.
Much of his career was spent teaching and doing research at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, as a professor of wildlife ecology. He has authored several books, including an internationally used textbook titled Wildlife Ecology.
Much of the research he has done throughout the years has been on large mammals of the north such as white-tailed deer, moose, black bears, and beavers.
Having grown up on a farm, Moen has always been interested in wildlife, especially deer, since the animal wasn’t as common in the prairie as they are now, he said.
His dissertation was actually on the study of how cold weather affected white-tailed deer. Most of his research was done in the area where the Runestone was discovered in Kensington, Moen noted, who also owns four acres of land in the area.
Though he is not a geologist or a runic scholar, Moen does have an understanding of glaciology, geology, and soil formation, which helps him relate and understand the research done on the Kensington Runestone.
During his program at the Dassel History Center, Moen will discuss information revealed to him during his studies of the book “The Kensington Runestone: Compelling New Evidence,” written by Minnesota authors Richard Nielsen and Scott Wolter and published in 2006.
Moen will also be able to give some insight on the Ohman family. His dad actually knew Ohman, who has been criticized as fabricating the story of the Runestone.
In Ohman’s defense, Moen will tell you he wasn’t the type of man who could, nor would put “a hoax on people,” and he will share the effect these allegations had on the Ohman family.
“Just the misinformation on the family was really sad,” he said, adding, “What I am dealing with is hard evidence, not heresy.”
He will also share new evidence on the significance of the “hooked X” and other characters found in the inscription.
“It’s been known for a long time that Columbus wasn’t the first foreigner . . . and we still take a day off for it,” Moen commented.
For Moen, it’s about telling the truth and having the “best facts in our history books that are at our disposal.”
“Why call it a hoax when there is evidence that it is not?” Moen said. “We all want to know the truth.”
Sunday’s talk will be “a little bit of the rest of the story,” Moen said, borrowing the coined phrase from legendary radio news broadcaster Paul Harvey.
Dassel History Center Director Carolyn Holje is eager to hear what Moen has to say about this intriguing subject and the new evidence surrounding it. She also encourages others who are interested in learning more about the Kensington Runestone to come to the presentation this Sunday.
“It could be information that changes history,” Holje said.
She also noted that this topic ties closely into the Smithsonian Main Street exhibit the museum will be hosting in September.
Entitled “New Harmonies,” the traveling exhibit will look at culture and diversity in the community.