Coming in Fall 2018: Beardmore: The Viking Hoax That Rewrote History, from McGill-Queen’s University Press.
In 1936, the Royal Ontario Museum made a sensational acquisition: the contents of a Viking grave that a part-time prospector named Eddy Dodd said he had found on his mining claim east of Lake Nipigon, in northern Ontario. The relics—a broken sword, an axe head, and what was said to be a shield handle—remained on display for some twenty years, changing our understanding of when and where Europeans first reached the Americas. Only in 1956 was the discovery exposed as an unquestionable hoax, tarnishing the reputation of the celebrated museum director, Charles Trick Currelly, who had acquired the relics and insisted on their authenticity.
Drawing on an array of archival sources, historian Douglas Hunter for the first time reconstructs the notorious hoax and its many players. Beardmore unfolds as a detective story, as the author sifts the voluminous evidence and follows the efforts of two unlikely debunkers, the high-school teacher Teddy Elliott and the government geologist T.L. Tanton, who find themselves up against Currelly and his scholarly allies. Along the way, the controversy draws in a Who’s Who of international figures in archaeology, Scandinavian studies, and the museum world, including anthropologist Edmund Carpenter, whose crusade against the find in the mid-1950s finally causes the authenticity case to collapse
Beardmore offers an unparalleled view inside a major scholarly controversy, shedding light on museum practices and the state of the historical and archaeological professions in the mid-twentieth century. It also shows how power can be exercised across professional networks, hampering efforts to arrive at the truth.