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. (Get the basics on genetics.)
This signature probably entered Icelandic bloodlines around A.D. 1000, when the first Viking-American Indian child was born, the study authors theorize. (Related: "Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade.")
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 (regional map).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. (Read entire post.)Share