Supposed Viking artifacts in the U.S.: Sodus Bay spear-head, tobacco cutters, etc.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about supposed Viking finds in the U.S., but one thing I haven’t been able to find much on is the Sodus Bay spear-head. It was found in 1929 by local historian Augustus L. Hoffman at Sodus Bay, New York, on Lake Ontario. It is now part of the collection of the Wayne County Museum in Lyons. There’s a small picture of the find here

There are several possibilities as I see it. Like the items found at L’Anse aux Meadows, it could be a genuine medieval Norse artifact left by Vikings who visited the area many centuries ago. Like the Maine penny, it could be a genuine medieval Norse artifact carried there along Indian trade routes from places the Vikings likely did visit, like Labrador. Like the Beardmore cache, it could be a genuine medieval artifact planted there in recent times. Like the Kensington Rune Stone, it could be a modern fake. Most likely, I think, is that it is a post-Columbian item mistaken by an amateur archaeologist for a Norse item. From what I’ve read, metal goods that whites traded with the Indians during the colonial era are especially likely to be confused with Norse items by finders whose enthusiasm outstrips their knowledge.

Another page I found (which I won’t link to because he’s selling crap that I don’t want to encourage), implies tht the artifact was authenticated by the curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in 1930. Who was the curator? Did he really authenticate the item? Did he published his opinion in a respectable journal? What I’m really looking for is a published analysis by an expert on what the item really is and where it came from.

A related question: I’ve read in a couple of places that certain tobacco cutters made and widely distriubed in the 19th century have often been mistaken for Norse axe heads. The pictures I’ve seen of your run-of-the-mill tobacco cutters look nothing like a Norse axe, and I can’t quite wrap my mind around how you could mistake one for the other. Can anyone link to a photo or suggest a book where I might find a picture?

My mother grew up on Sodus Bay (Wolcott, actually, but about 3/4 of a mile from the bay.) in the 1940’s, let me ask her what she knows about it. She may not know anything, but it’s possible there may be a link to local knowledge there that could point you in the right direction.

I found this image of a tobacco cutter, which I could imagine might look like some kind of ax if the “arm” of it was broken off. I don’t know how it could be mistaken as early norse, unless one posits such a thing in one piece, rather than the version in the picture, which seems to have rivets.

Since Tobacco is a purely American plant the tobacco cutter could only prove whoever left it traded for it with the natives.

Or it was of relatively recent manufacture, i.e. something made in the 1800’s rather than something made by the Norse in the 1100’s.

bib. I used all of my many electronic databases today. Nada.

Since the only on-line info for that 1929 discovery is the library itself, perhaps asking the library for more info is in order. When did they acquire the item? From whom? Donor?


Apparently Tobacco cutter was a job title as evidenced by this search of the
Hensley (Hinsley) family.
1677 Thomas Hinsley of London, tobacco cutter age 52 was deposed on 3 November, 1677 concerning debts of others(The Complete Books of Emigrants 1661-1699, p. 302, by Peter Wilson Coldham, Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., Baltimore 1988)

Another search produced a picture(sorry not with this computer) of a device much like a paper cutter called a tobacco cutter. There are several primitive tobacco cutters on ebay.

My impression is that supposed pre-Columbian European artifacts (Viking and otherwise) in America fall into three categories:

L’Anse aux Meadows, and material found there: proven to a reasonable degree of archaeological certainty

A limited number of artifacts and sites: Proven to have been either later artifacts mistakenly or fraudulently claimed to have been pre-Columbian, or deliberate frauds

Everything else: Not proven. Not “Disproven” – but with inadequate grounds to state for certain that it is or is not of pre-Columbian European origin.