Researchers at the University of Iceland have discovered genetic evidence that suggests at least one woman from North America may have traveled to Europe 1000 years ago.
Ten years ago, Agnar Helgason, a scientist at Iceland's deCODE Genetics, began investigating the origin of the Icelandic population. Most of the people he tested carried genetic links to either Scandinavians or people from the British Isles. But a small group of Icelanders -- roughly 350 in total -- carried a lineage known as C1, usually seen only in Asians and Native Americans. "We figured it was a recent arrival from Asia," says Helgason. "But we discovered a much deeper story than we expected."
Helgason's graduate student, Sigridur Sunna Ebenesersdottir, found that she could trace the matrilineal sequence to a date far earlier than when the first Asians began arriving in Iceland. In fact, she found that all the people who carry the C1 lineage are descendants of one of four women alive around the year 1700. In all likelihood, those four descended from a single woman. And because archeological remains in what is Canada today suggest that the Vikings were in the Americas around the year 1000 before retreating into a period of global isolation, the best explanation for that errant lineage lies with an American Indian woman: one who was taken back to Iceland some 500 years before Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492.
For now, the story of the lone American Indian woman taken on a Viking ship to Iceland remains a hypothesis. To prove it will require finding the same genetic sequence in older Amerindian remains elsewhere in the world -- family members, as it were, of that 1,000-year-old woman who ended up so far from home.
Via Indian Country
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.