22 April 2011

More on American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

This National Geographic article is somewhat dated, but I missed it the first around, so it is offered as support for the other articles on the subject posted herein.
National Geographic News

November, 24 2010

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."

14 April 2011

Dundee academics reconstruct Viking woman’s face

April, 13 2011


Academics at Dundee University have helped recreate the face of a Viking woman whose skeleton was unearthed in York more than 30 years ago.

The facial reconstruction was achieved by laser-scanning her skull to create a 3D digital model.

Eyes were then digitally created, along with hair and a bonnet, to complete the look.

The project was part of a £150,000 investment at York's Jorvik Viking Centre.

The Dundee academics were brought in by the centre's owners, the York Archaeological Trust, as part of a project to bring York's Vikings to life.

The female skeleton used was one of four excavated at Coppergate in York.

The reconstruction process was carried out using specialist computer equipment which allowed the user to "feel" what they were modeling on screen. The anatomy of the face was modelled in "virtual clay" from the deep muscles to the surface.

Dundee University researcher Janice Aitken took the digital reconstruction and added the finishing touches.

'Research capabilities'

She explained: "I use the same sort of software as is used to create 3D animations in the film industry. I digitally created realistic eyes, hair and bonnet and added lighting to create a natural look.

"It is very satisfying knowing that the work we create at Dundee University will be seen by thousands of visitors to Jorvik and being part of a process which can so vividly help people to identify with their ancestors."

The reconstruction now features in York Archaeological Trust's new Investigate Coppergate exhibition, which examines the Vikings' diet and investigates the diseases from which the Vikings suffered.

The exhibition also looks at the final battles of the Viking age in York that heralded the end of the Viking era and the coming of the Normans.

It features skeletal remains showing battle wounds and a full skeleton with evidence of severe trauma, alongside discussion about how they died.

Sarah Maltby, York Archaeological Trust director of attractions, said: "Archaeological research capabilities have moved on considerably since the original Coppergate excavations which took place over 30 years ago.

"The new exhibition areas mark a shift in how archaeological finds are analysed and the techniques available to researchers

08 April 2011

Review of Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel

If you haven't yet begun to read my historical fiction series about the Greenland Vikings you might be interested in what one Canadian reviewer had to say after reading Confrontation, the second novel in the Axe of Iron series.

The following is an excerpt of her review from 2010.
By Tracy Roberts, Write Field Services, Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada.

"Hunsinger successfully builds on his first novel and adds even more action and adventure. As with the first novel, the story is rich in historical details which clearly show the careful attention paid to historical accuracy which allows the reader to peer through a window into the past and experience an important historical period. He incorporates the fictional tale with historical details which makes reading the story not only fun, but also engaging. Readers will root for Gudbjartur as he struggles with his Norsemen fighting spirit and his desire to make peace with the native people. I highly recommend ‘Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel’ as an entertaining addition to the historical fiction genre. Readers will find the story and characters so compelling that they will not realize that they are learning as they read."
Roberts' complete review as well as many others of both novels are available on my website. Click on this direct link.

Thanks for dropping by.

02 April 2011

Suggestions for Querying Literary Agents

It is my hope that the following suggestions, based on my own experience in the world of writer/publisher, will save you from some of the pitfalls you will encounter querying literary agents.

1. The completed first draft of your manuscript begins your odyssey toward publication. Up until now your work has been uniquely personal, something that you have created. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other nonprofessional read your manuscript; no, I mean that you must engage the services of at least one professional editor, two is better. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. Do not take it personally; treat the process as a learning experience because that is exactly what it is. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right. After all of that effort there will still be errors. The most pervasive and difficult to find are words that sound the same, but have different meanings, e.g. – broach and brooch. The English language is full of such words. I find it easier to correct edits electronically within the Word document rather than by hand with a marked up manuscript. Communication between you and the editor is kept within the document by e-mailing it back and forth. There is less chance of missing necessary changes with the electronic edit and it is easier; edit/rewrite by hand can be a crushing experience for an author. Of course, the choice of methodology is yours to make, just be certain you do not skimp on the capital outlay because this is not the place to save money.

2. Before you begin to query, keep professionalism firmly in mind. If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Microsoft Publisher makes great looking forms, business cards, and stationery. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get.

3. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. For you the path to conventional publication begins with the literary agent in almost all circumstances. That accommodation is not an accident. Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own submission guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Query only agencies accepting submissions in your genre and target specific agents within each agency. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested, they will not read it. When the time comes, manuscripts are sent loose-leaf, unbound by request. Manuscript mailing boxes can be purchased online. Again, hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. Remember, you cannot edit your own work, you must hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow their submission guidelines.

4. Dealing with agents is a disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of them, when in fact it is the other way around. Keep that fact in mind. Use the considerable resources of the Internet to find agents interested in your genre. Do not rely on print lists of agents. The game will have changed before you receive the list. Many agents will require an exclusive submission, unnecessarily extending the period of angst for the author. Many others do not; focus on them. These days they are looking for contentious subjects or manuscripts written by known authors, never mind whether or not they can write. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my genre only to find that there are not any in existence.

5. If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of the publisher.

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbies, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody; get everything in writing; and, research, research, research.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/

©2010 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved