A ‘VALKNUT’ IN THE CAPITOL VIKING AGE SYMBOL AND MODERN MYTH Of the many images that burst forth from Washington DC in the immediate wake of the storming of the Capitol on January 6 2021, there is one that obviously stands out for those who research Viking Age Scandinavia. In this image, a shirtless man stands in a hallway in the Capitol building, perfectly centered on the elaborately tiled � loor, with the portraits of bygone politicians looking on. His shirtlessness, all the more striking for the time of year, is no accident. The man’s body has been curated for this very moment. Three tattooed images, each large enough to be clearly legible in photographs, are arranged vertically on his torso. Each of these images is intended to evoke the pre-Christian past of Scandinavia. At the bottom is a familiar Thor’s Hammer; similar designs are known from Viking Age metalwork, though the symbol’s popularity as a modern tattoo design far outstrips its use in the Middle Ages. Above this is a circular image of a tree popularly used to represent the mythological tree Yggdrasil. At the top is a design of three interwoven triangles known from only a few examples in the late Iron Age and early Middle Ages; it is this mysterious symbol I wish to focus on in particular here. The man in the photograph has since been identi � ied as one Jacob Chansley of Arizona, and various details of his personal life and beliefs have been publicly divulged – there is already a remarkably lengthy Wikipedia entry dedicated to him – yet I wish to stress that Chansley is not himself, as such, the subject of my writing here. The image I am focusing on cannot be reduced to a set of personal beliefs and personal intentions. Rather, we must consider the complex historical circumstances that have brought this image into being; they are circumstances that exceed what the individual in the photograph knows, understands, or intends. The question that arises when scholars are confronted with this image is: how has this element of Viking Age history found its way into the twenty- � irst century, into the context of the Trumpist coup attempt of January 6? There is no simple answer to this question. Those whose profession is to study the past often see their public role as that of dispellers of misconceptions, and there certainly seem to be some strong misconceptions about the past at work in this image. We feel the need to take stock of what we do know about the past that is being misrepresented. But is it enough to merely point out what we see as a mistake, and leave it at that? While we are happy to deal with errors, we seem somewhat ill-equipped to deal with impostures, and the rise of Donald Trump and his online cheerleaders has brought us into a disturbing new age of imposture. We have once again to take seriously the powerful attractiveness of fascist and racist impostures, rather than dismiss them as misconceptions; they are not interested in being corrected, and they are not going to go away any time soon.