Monday, November 29, 2010

Study: Vikings May Have Taken a Native American to Iceland

Lisa Abend - Pity poor Leif Ericsson. The Viking explorer may well have been the first European to reach the Americas, but it is a certain Genoan sailor who gets all the glory. Thanks to evidence that has until now consisted only of bare archeological remains and a bunch of Icelandic legends, Ericsson has long been treated as a footnote in American history: no holiday, no state capitals named after him, no little ditty to remind you of the date of his voyage. But a group of Icelandic and Spanish scientists studying one mysterious genetic sequence — and one woman who's been dead 1,000 years — may soon change that.

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.

Read more:,8599,2033038,00.html#ixzz16k9I1xrE ...


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