Vikings Conquered Waltham?

I have a list of to dos a mile long.  Am I doing any of them?  Not a one.  Instead, I’m looking up the story of how Leif Erikson and his Viking brethren colonized Waltham, Mass.

What?  You’ve never heard this before?  Neither had I!  See…I was doing a little Watham conquering of my own this evening.  I needed to run 5 miles, and I decided to go back to the loop that had served as the last 5 miles of my 13 (or was it 12.56?) mile run on Saturday.  Those last 5 miles had kicked my butt.  And, anyone who’s ever gotten their butt kicked knows that the best thing to do after a good butt kicking is to go back and kick the butt of the thing that kicked your butt in the first place.

Ha!  Just you try to detangle the poor grammar in the above sentence.

Anyway, I felt much stronger this time around, mostly due to the fact that I started the loop at mile zero instead of mile 8.  You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out why that felt so much better.

And, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed the first time through.  It’s called Norumbega Tower. After I got home, I discovered this little treasure on the Waltham/Weston border even has its own always-accurate Wikipedia page.

Yeah, I know I should be running, but who can keep running when there's exploring to do?

Yeah, I know I should be running, but who can keep running when there's exploring to do?

It’s a rather crude little tower. Rough stonework. Not too tall. That door on the front is only slightly larger than your average front door.

According to the internets, it is possible to slip past the iron grates meant to save you from danger inside the tower. I am not a rule breaker, so I did not try.

According to the internets, it is possible to slip past the iron grates meant to save you from danger inside the tower. I am not a rule breaker, so I did not try.

The most prominent feature of the tower is also the most fascinating. A huge engraved plaque declares that the tower marks the site of a Viking fort and city.

Oh, come on.  EVERYBODY who's ANYBODY knows that Leif Erikson landed on Cape Cod in 1000 AD.  Didn't you learn that in History class?

Oh, come on. EVERYBODY who's ANYBODY knows that Leif Erikson landed on Cape Cod in 1000 AD. Didn't you learn that in History class?

I found a really cool website that explains the whole thing, and someone there has even typed out the entire plaque. It’s a good thing, too. Because my dryer just buzzed and I gotta wrap up this post soon!

A.D. 1000 A.D. 1889
NORUMBEGA
CITY·COUNTRY·FORT·RIVER
NORUMBEGA = NOR MBEGA
INDIAN UTTERANGE OF NORBEGA THE ANCIENT FORM
OF NORVEGA·NORWAY·TO WHICH THE
REGION OF VINLAND WAS SUBJECT
CITY
AT, AND NEAR WATERTOWN
WHERE REMAIN TO-DAY
DOCKS·WHARVES·WALLS·DAMS·BASINS·
COUNTRY
EXTENDING FROM RHODE ISLAND TO THE ST. LAWRENCE
FIRST SEEN BY BJARNI HERJULFSON 985 A.D.
LANDFALL OF LEIF ERIKSON ON CAPE COD 1000 A.D.
NORSE CANALS·DAMS·WALLS·PAVEMENTS·
FORTS·TERRACED PLACES OF ASSEMBLY REMAIN TO-DAY
FORT
AT BASE OF TOWER AND REGION ABOUT
WAS OCCUPIED BY THE BRETON FRENCH IN THE
15TH 16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES
RIVER
THE CHARLES
DISCOVERED BY
LEIF ERIKSON·1000 A.D.
EXPLORED BY
THORWALD LEIF’S BROTHER·1003 A.D.
COLONIZED BY
THORFINN KARLSEFNI·1007 A.D.
FIRST BISHOP
ERIK GNUPSON·1121 A.D.
INDUSTRIES FOR 350 YEARS
MASUR·WOOD [BURRS]·FISH·FURS·AGRICULTURE·
LATEST NORSE SHIP RETURNED TO ICELAND IN 1347.

Here’s the quick summary:  Eben Norton Horsefeld, a Harvard professor and amateur archeologist, came to believe that in the year 1000, Norway’s Leif Erikson had sailed up the Charles River and built a house in what’s now Cambridge, Mass.  Through some pretty shady science, Horsefeld connected the spot where the Charles River meets Stony Brook to an old legend of a city called Norumbega, a most likely non-existant Viking fort and city.

Prof. Horsefeld had some cash, which he had earned by reformulating baking soda (you can’t make this stuff up!) and decided to build a tower to mark the “site” of Norumbega.  He also, apparently, placed a plaque at the “site” of Erikson’s home in Cambridge, and placed a statue of the Norse explorer on Commonwealth Ave.

In all my years traveling up and down Comm Ave, I’ve never noticed that statue.  Maybe it’s time I went for a run on that road instead?

You never know what you'll find while running slowly.  Very, very slowly.

You never know what you'll find while running slowly. Very, very slowly.

 

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