It has long been known that Viking explorers, traders, and settlers made their way across the North Atlantic, first to the North Sea Islands, then to Iceland and Greenland, and even to the Newfoundland area of North America.
But the accepted narrative is that the forays into the American continent proper were brief, and their contact with the native peoples there was nasty, brutish, and short. But a 1000 year old skeleton found in a burial ground in Norway shows traits usually only found in Inca Indians.
The remains were found at the old St. Nicolas church. (Photo: Christian Nygaard-Monsen/NRK)The sagas
of the of the Scandinavian voyages during the Viking Age, written mostly in Iceland some time after the events, recorded that Leif Eriksson
, son of Erik the Red
, who had discovered Greenland, made landfall on what he called Vinland, probably modern day Newfoundland around the year 1000 AD.
These voyages were part of that last outcrop of the great migrations of peoples that had once overwhelmed the Roman Empire. Scandinavians, starved for arable land in their native countries, or exiled by the political turmoil leading to the unification of these countries into what was to become the kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, went abroad looking for opportunities elsewhere, whether that be through trade, settlement, or plunder.
Viking lands and routes of trade and conquest.
(Click for larger image)
The Swedes tended to go east, across the Baltic Sea and down the river systems of eastern Europe and present day Russia, which they had a pivotal role in founding. The Danes went mainly to England and France, where their descendants would settle the region of Normandy. While the Norwegians, seafarers by nature, due to their long coastline and lack of farmland, struck out across the North Sea, to the North of England, Scotland, Ireland, and to the islands in the north Atlantic, and eventually North America.
We know that they encountered natives on their voyages there. But how they could have come across a south American Indian, or a he make his way to the north east coastal regions of Canada, would seem to defy imagination.
Archaeologists working on the conservation of the ruins of the old St. Nicolas church at Borgarsyssel in the Norwegian city of Sarpsborg came across some skeletal remains by accident, as they were removing some rose bushes. "As we pulled out the rose bushes, bones just poured out," archaeologist at Borgarsyssel Museum, Mona Beate Buckholm
told Norwegian Public Broadcasting NRK
Leif Eriksson Sights Land in America
Christian Krohg, 1893 (Click for larger image)
It turned out to be the remains of two older men and an infant. And it was the skull of one of the men that puzzled the forensic archaeologists. "A particular bone at the back of the head was not fused. This is an inherited trait found almost exclusively among the Incas of Peru," Buckholm added. To this day, no other example of this trait has been found in Norway. "While it is tempting to speculate, seeing as St. Nicolas is the patron saint of sailors, it's hard to imagine a Peruvian making his way here at the time. This is quite puzzling."
As one would almost expect with such a maritime culture, there have been finds in the past of people from far off lands ending up in ancient Scandinavia. One such example was the recent DNA evidence that one of the women buried in the royal tomb at Oseberg, one of the most famous Viking Age finds of all time, turned out to be of Black Sea origin
. But this would be on another scale entirely.
, and this is still a massive if at this time, further tests and excavations could turn up corroborating evidence for an American link, and the find turns out to not be another Piltdown Man
, or simply a very anomalous individual, it would be a sensational discovery, turning established views on pre-Columbian contacts between Europe and the Americas on their head. Right now though, that is speculation more fit for Hollywood movies than science journals.
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