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(Photo: Courtesy Kensingston Runestone Museum)

A puzzling documentary links the Knights Templar to Minnesota's enigmatic runestone

Last fall, the History Channel aired Holy Grail in America, a two-hour show that introduced more than a million viewers to the startling claim that the Knights Templar sailed to the New World in the 14th century. The medieval religious order, a fixture of (often anti-Catholic) conspiracy theories in recent decades, has been a hot media commodity since the 2003 publication of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, in which the knights played a role. But the History Channel's take stands out from garden-variety Templar conspiracy narratives by elevating a dense web of improbable theories to the level of accepted science.

Produced by Committee Films, a husband-and-wife production company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Holy Grail in America takes as its premise that evidence for a previously unknown "Templar voyage of discovery" might be encoded on the infamous Kensington Runestone. The program also suggested the knights, in the company of Cistercian monks, brought the Holy Grail to the New World in the late 14th century, and that the runestone might hold clues to the final resting place of the Grail.

Eric A. Powell is deputy editor at ARCHAEOLOGY.