27 November 2010

More on American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

The deluge of scientific articles and papers associated with the startling discovery of modern Icelanders with North American Indian DNA has taken on a life of its own. As the story continues to unfold you will see that my contention—the premise of my novels on the assimilation of the Viking Greenland populace with pre-historical Canadian and American Indians—will be proven correct.

More on American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

November, 24 2010

National Geographic News

Centuries before Columbus, a Viking Indian child may have been born in Iceland.

Five hundred years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, a Native American woman may have voyaged to Europe with Vikings, according to a provocative new DNA study.

Analyzing a type of DNA passed only from mother to child, scientists found more than 80 living Icelanders with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans.

This signature probably entered Icelandic bloodlines around A.D. 1000, when the first Viking-American Indian child was born, the study authors theorize.

Historical accounts and archaeological evidence show that Icelandic Vikings reached Greenland just before 1000 and quickly pushed on to what is now Canada. Icelanders even established a village in Newfoundland, though it lasted only a decade or so.

The idea that a Native American woman sailed from North America to Iceland during that period of settlement and exploration provides the best explanation for the Icelanders' variant, the research team says.

"We know that Vikings sailed to the Americas," said Agnar Helgason of deCODE Genetics and the University of Iceland, who co-wrote the study with his student Sigrídur Ebenesersdóttir and colleagues. "So all you have to do is assume & that they met some people and ended up taking at least one female back with them.

"Although it's maybe interesting and surprising, it's not all that incredible," Helgason added. "The alternative explanations to me are less likely"- for example the idea that the genetic trait might exist independently, undiscovered, in a few Europeans.

The study authors themselves admit the case is far from closed. But University of Illinois geneticist Ripan Malhi- an expert in ethnic DNA differences who wasn't part of the project- agreed that the report holds "strong genetic evidence for pre-Columbian contact of people in Iceland with Native Americans."

Dating the DNA Signature

Through genealogical research, the study team concluded that the Icelanders who carry the Native American variation are all from four specific lineages, descended from four women born in the early 1700s.

Those four lineages, in turn, likely descended from a single woman with Native American DNA who must have been born no later than 1700, according to study co-author Ebenesersdóttir.

The genealogical records for the four lineages are incomplete before about 1700, but history and genetics suggest the Native American DNA arrived on the European island centuries before then, study co-author Helgason said.

He pointed out that Iceland was very isolated from the outside world in the centuries leading up to 1700, so it's unlikely that a Native American got to the island during that period.

As further evidence, he noted that- though the Icelanders share a distinct version of the variation- at least one lineage's variation has mutated in a way that would likely have taken centuries to occur, the researchers say.

This unique signature suggests that, in Helgason's words, the Native American DNA arrived in Iceland at least "several hundred years" before 1700.

DNA Evidence Fragmented

Despite the evidence, for now it's nearly impossible to prove a direct, thousand-year-old genetic link between Native Americans and Icelanders.

For starters, no living Native American group carries the exact genetic variation found in the Icelandic families.

But of the many known scattered versions that are related to the Icelandic variant, 95 percent are found in Native Americans. Some East Asians, whose ancestors are thought to have been the first Americans, carry a similar genetic pattern, though.

The Inuit, often called Eskimos, carry no version of the variant- a crucial detail, given that Greenland has a native Inuit population.

Helgason speculates that the precise Icelandic variation may have come from a Native American people that died out after the arrival of Europeans.

It's possible, he added, that the DNA variation actually came from mainland Europe, which had infrequent contact with Iceland in the centuries preceding 1700. But this would depend on a European, past or present, carrying the variation, which so far has never been found.

History Not Much Help?

Complicating matters, the historical record contains no evidence that Icelandic Vikings might have taken a Native American woman back home to their European island, scholars say.

"It makes no sense to me," said archaeologist and historian Hans Gulløv of the Greenland Research Centre in Copenhagen.

For one thing, experts say, nothing in excavations or the Icelandic sagas- thought to be rooted in fact but not entirely reliable- suggests a personal alliance of the kind reported in the new study, published online November 10 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The Saga of Erik the Red does tell of four Skraeling boys- the Norse term for the American Indians- who were captured by an Icelandic expedition and taken back to Greenland, said Birgitta Wallace, an emeritus archaeologist for Parks Canada who has written extensively about the Norse.

But Icelanders spent little time in North America, and their relations with the people they found living there seem to have been mostly hostile, she said. The stories "talk in not very flattering terms about [Native Americans'] looks," Wallace said.

One saga, she added, tells of explorers "who found some sleeping natives- and they just killed them."

Time to Rewrite Viking History?

"What we have is a big mystery," study co-author Helgason admitted.

It won't be solved, he said, until the DNA pattern's origins are nailed down, perhaps through the study of ancient DNA- for example, if an ancient Native American bone is found with DNA closely matching the Icelandic variant.

But at least one skeptic suggests it's a mystery worth pursuing.

"I have no historical sources telling me" that Vikings took Native Americans home, said Gulløv, the historian. But often when new data is uncovered, he added, "we have to write history anew."

19 November 2010

First American in Europe was native woman kidnapped by Vikings

I have contended for years that the Greenland Vikings did not disappear, as was thought, rather they assimilated with the natives of the land they called Vinland. It is the premise of my novels on the Greenland Vikings. The following article indicates that scientists are beginning to take a look at that possibility with mitochondrial DNA found in the current residents of Iceland. Check out my website for my Axe of Iron series on the medieval Greenland Vikings and their adventures among the natives of Vinland.
Friday, Nov 19 2010

First American in Europe 'was native woman kidnapped by Vikings and hauled back to Iceland 1,000 years ago'

By Niall Firth

Daily Mail

Last updated at 7:47 PM on 17th November 2010

A native woman kidnapped by the Vikings may have been the first American to arrive in Europe around 1,000 years ago, according to a startling new study.

The discovery of a gene found in just 80 Icelanders links them with early Americans who may have been brought back to Iceland by Viking raiders.

The discovery means that the female slave was in Europe five centuries before Christopher Columbus first paraded American Indians through the streets in Spain after his epic voyage of discovery in 1492.

The genes that the woman left behind have now been discovered in the DNA of just our distinct family lines.

Replicas of Viking sod houses at L'Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. The area holds the earliest evidence of Viking raiders arriving in the Americas

Any early suggestion that the genes were from Asia were ruled out after it was worked out that they had been present in Iceland since at least the 18th century – long before Asian genes appeared in Icelanders.

The team found that the genes they studied can be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710.

It has long been thought that Viking raiders arrived in the Americas centuries before Columbus ever arrived in the Caribbean.

Norse epic sagas such as ‘Erik the Red’, talk of early Scandinavian settlers discovering lush new lands, with a temperate climate and abundant crops – now believed to be parts of northern Canada.

A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Newfoundland, is thought to date to the 11th century. Other such settlements are found in Greenland, which Viking navigators reached from Iceland.

Because Iceland was isolated from the rest of the world from the 11th century onwards scientists speculate that the woman must have been taken from the Americas sometime around the year 1000. Viking raiders kidnapped local women on their plundering trips to Europe and the Americas.

The DNA lineage, named C1e, is mitochondrial – which means that the genes were introduced by a woman.

The unknown American woman was probably abducted from the Americas and then brought to Iceland after surviving the sea voyage back. She then bore children in her new home but nothing was ever written of her existence or fate.

The study will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Iceland is a renowned centre for gene research and the new study was led by DeCode Genetics - a world-leading genome research lab on the island which has DNA records of almost everyone living on the island.

Carles Lalueza-Fox, who co-authored the paper, told MailOnline: ‘In my view, the most plausible hypothesis is that these four Icelandic families derived from an Amerindian woman brought there at pre-Columbian times.

‘There are alternatives to this that we cannot totally reject. To have a definite proof, we should found a pre-Columbian Icelandic remain that could be genetically analysed and show the same Amerindian lineage.’

One of the alternatives is that a post 1400s American female, like Pocohontas, the character that inspired the Disney film, found her way from mainland Europe to Iceland. But scientists believe this to be unlikely because of how isolated Iceland was at the time.

Since the woman’s arrival a millennium ago, 40 generations of her descendants have lived in Iceland. In each generation, there was at least one girl child.

She also had daughters and the female lineage has not been interrupted yet as the mitochondrial gene has been passed through the generations.

The research team do not believe the lineage passed to the European mainland

The Vikings were fearsome warriors and highly skilled navigators. Viking raiders in Britain took not just gold and other precious good but also slaves that they could sell elsewhere around the world.

For example, while the original male inhabitants of Iceland were mostly of Viking origin, the majority of original female inhabitants came from the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

Historical evidence suggests that people in Scandinavia and the British Isles arrived in Iceland around the year 870. The analysis of the Y sex chromosome, which passes from father to son, shows that 80% of Icelandic lineages comes from Scandinavia, compared to 20% in Scotland and Ireland.

Mitochondrial DNA, inherited through the maternal line, shows a 37 per cent from Scandinavia and 63% of the British Isles.

‘This difference has only one explanation: that the Vikings were in the habit of plundering the women of the British Isles. It is logical that they would do the same in America,’ said Lalueza-Fox.

Book Posting on Teach Our Children Website

Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel is featured on the Teach Our Children website. The info includes a synopsis, link to this blog, link to website, and book ordering links.

Happy Thanksgiving!

12 November 2010

Long lost Viking gateway found near Schleswig

August 28, 2010

The Local

Archaeologists have found a legendary 1,200 year old gateway to the massive wall the Vikings built to defend themselves against their rivals the Saxons, according to a Friday media report.

Records of such a gateway existed, but archaeologists were due Friday to announce they had found the actual site, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. The team described the find as a "sensation."
The discovery, near the town of Schleswig in Germany's far north near the Danish border, reinforces the view that the Vikings were more than plunderers and pillagers, and that they also built and traded. The gate was the only opening in the Danevirke the 30-kilometre long wall that the feared men of the north built across the Cimbrian peninsula to separate their kingdom from what is now Germany.

The famous Nordic plunderers, who raided cities from Ireland to Spain were also prolific stone builders. The Danevirke is considered the largest archaeological site in northern Europe. A team of archaeologists have excavated a three-metre thick section of the stone wall from the eighth century in the Haddeby district near Schleswig. Many of the stones are fist-sized but others are veritable boulders weighing 50 kilogrammes or more. "The Vikings have gathered millions of stones," archaeologist Astrid Tummuscheit told the magazine.
The scientist said they had found a single, a five-metre-wide door in the wall. According to chronicles, horses and wagons once poured through this gateway. It included a customs house with bawdy taverns and brothels.

For hundreds of years archaeologists had dreamed of finding this door between Denmark and the kingdom of Charlemagne, the Frankish king who built an empire that stretched across much of western and central Europe in the second half of the eighth century. The existence of the fortifications were vaguely known. But archaeologists were prevented from digging at the site where they believed the gate stood because an old guesthouse, the Café Truberg, stood there. "The Café Truberg blocked everything," said state archeological head Claus von Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel. When the guesthouse went broke, the Danish shipping magnate Arnold Mærsk swooped, buying the decrepit property. The German energy firm EON Hanse paid for the demolition of the guesthouse. Then the archaeologists moved in and quickly discovered the legendary door.

The Danes are equally excited by the discovery. Queen Margrethe II visited the excavation site along with Prince Frederik.

The Vikings were fighting at the time with neighbouring Slavs and Saxons for supremacy in the region. "This was the Kosovo of the early Middle Ages," Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel. Ultimately the Danes triumphed. Records show that in year 808 a King Göttrik decided "to protect his empire from Saxony with a wall."

06 November 2010

The Vikings' burning question: some decent graveside theatre

From The Times

October 26, 2008

Magnus Linklater

The average Viking lived a life in which spirituality and thoughts of immortality played a far more important part than the rape and pillage more usually associated with his violent race, according to new research. A study of thousands of excavated Viking graves suggests that rituals were performed at the graveside in which stories about life and death were presented as theatre, with live performances designed to help the passage of the deceased from this world into the next.

Neil Price, Chair of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who will be presenting his findings at a lecture at the university tonight, believes that these rituals may have been the early beginnings of the Norse sagas, which told stories about men and gods in the pagan world. He said that close study of the graves and the artefacts they contained, as well as contemporary accounts of Viking funerals, presented a far more complex picture of their lives than the simple myth of the Viking raider.

Detailed analysis of the burials revealed a remarkable variety of objects found alongside the bodies - from everyday items to great longships, wagons and sledges, together with animals of many different species and even human sacrifices.

Professor Price said: “Close analysis of Viking burials not only gives us an insight into the workings of their minds, but most importantly how slim they perceived the boundaries to be between life and death, and between humans and animals.”

He said that the burial rituals suggested the Vikings had no defined religion, but instead made up a set of spiritual beliefs, which were then acted out at the graveside. These became a form of theatre that predates the sagas and may have contained the origins of Norse mythology - the inspiration for Wagner's operas.

Professor Price said: “There seem to have been something like stage directions dictating how these rituals were to be enacted. Eyewitness accounts suggest that there were as many as ten days of ritual, with enormous time and effort put into the performances.”

The artefacts buried with the dead varied enormously. “No two graves were the same,” he said. Some bore evidence of a military career, with whole ships containing the corpse left open. Other graves were found to have had animal remains - one had no fewer than 20 decapitated horses - and occasionally there were human remains as well. Some Vikings were buried with their wives and families, others were laid to rest in more simple single graves.

Professor Price said: “What emerges from these studies is that these were an immensely sophisticated people, with a complex set of beliefs, and a strong interest in poetry. It was an utterly different world from ours. They were aggressively pagan, and strongly anti-Christian, perhaps as a reaction to the Christian missionaries. But there is great richness in this non-Christian world.”

Most of the existing records on Norse mythology date from the 11th to 18th centuries, having gone through more than two centuries of oral tradition that is thought to carry the seeds of Germanic legends such as the Valkyrie, the Niebelungen and Siegfried. Hundreds of place names in Scandinavia are named after the gods.

“The research focused on the examination of excavated material and Old Norse texts, combined with eyewitness descriptions of Viking burial ceremonies found in contemporary literature,” said Professor Price. “The study demonstrated the significant role that storytelling and dramatisation played in the Viking disposal of the dead. It seems clear that public enactments took place on these occasions, intended to provide the deceased with a poetic passage into the next life.

“The work suggests that Vikings used these funeral stories as a way of connecting the world of the living and the worlds of the dead. It is likely that these dramas, which were created and acted out using objects that were placed with the body in the grave or on the cremation pyre, form the beginnings of what we know today as Norse mythology.”