In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered…….America? Well kinda but not exactly. In fact, the more we discover the more it looks like the infamous explorer Columbus was somewhat of a late-comer to the Americas.
We know that those adventurous Vikings were in North America in Newfoundland long before Columbus and there is some speculation that they even sailed through the St Lawrence Seaway down into the Great Lakes and into Minnesota. Some researchers have even theorized that these brave souls even sailed down the Mississippi River and came into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly ended up on the coast of the Yucatan where their encounters with the Natives may not have ended well. But what about their trip back to Scandinavia?
Researchers have speculated that these Viking explorers and colonizers of the New World long before the arrival of Columbus may have taken a few Native American women along with them on their voyage back to Europe. This would have been about 500 years before Columbus returned to Spain with a few captive Native Americans.
We know that these Vikings set up colonies on the shores of North America around 1000 AD. What we don’t know is how a family in Iceland came to acquire a rather surprising genetic marker dating back to that time (1000 AD). That genetic marker is mostly found in Native Americans not Icelanders!
The first Native Americans actually arrived in Europe during the 11th century brought by the Vikings not Columbus. A genetic study led by deCODE Genetics which is a leading genome research lab in Iceland has discovered a unique genetic marker (gene) present in only 4 family lines in Iceland. The gene is named C1e and it is a mitochondrial gene passed down through a female mother. This suggests Native American women either voluntarily or involuntarily came back to Europe with Viking explorers and had children in their new home, Iceland. There are about 80 Icelanders presently who have this distinct genetic marker in their genes.
One problem with this theory is that the C1e genes may have come from some other part of the world and not necessarily from Native Americans. No living Native American population today has the exact DNA lineage as the one found in these 80 Icelanders BUT it may be a case in which those Native Americans brought to Iceland by Vikings simply went extinct which, in my opinion, is most likely the case.
It’s not farfetched to believe Vikings actually did bring at least a few Native American women back to Iceland as early explorers commonly brought back Native peoples to their homelands as trophies, mates, oddities, whatever just as Columbus did.
The Vikings called Native Americans “Skraelings” meaning “foreigners.” They are recorded in Viking sagas. However, there is no specific mention of Vikings bringing Native American captive back to Iceland with them after their voyages to the New World. Further, there is no archaeological evidence supporting the notion of Native American women being in or living in Iceland.
Of course these Native American females could have been children who were the products of a Viking, Native American interbreeding. Sex with Native populations was also not uncommon with early explorers.
I think it highly likely that early Viking explorers brought back children and/or women from the Americas with them on their return voyages to Europe. Perhaps they were mates, mixed offspring, or even slaves. Whatever the case one thing we are learning is that our concept of the Vikings is expanding as new discoveries are made concerning these magnificent and courageous explorers. I have long had a suspicion that early Vikings very possibly were the first explorers to make it around the world. We know they were in the Americas. There is evidence via paintings that they encountered the Maya and Aztecs in Mexico/Central America. We know they were in Russia and the Ukraine and they may well have even been in India and China as some now theorize! That would definitely make the Vikings humanity’s first global explorers and perhaps colonizers.
We now know Vikings were in the Mediterranean and that they were also in Galicia, Spain. Locals there pride themselves on their Viking heritage. It is not, in fact, uncommon in this area for people to have blue eyes and ginger hair. Offspring of Erico de Rojo (Erik the Red)?
We know actually very little about Vikings being in Spain but Irene Garcia Losquino of the University of Aberdeen, Center for Scandinavian Studies is presently conducting research in an effort to learn more about Vikings in Spain. There are, in fact, written accounts of Viking raids in Norther Spain. It’s believed Vikings were in the area around 840 AD up until the 11th century. Most studies have focused on Vikings in Britain and Ireland but they were also throughout Europe as their are historical accounts of Viking raids from the UK to France to Italy as well as in Eastern Europe.
Back in 2014 Viking anchors washed ashore on the coasts of Northern Spain and remains of a Longhort (shore side fortress) have been found. It is similar to forts erected by Vikings in Britain after they conquered a harbor. Further, written accounts in Galicia tell of Vikings coming into a fjord at Santiago and staying for 3 years in the fields there. Also, they may have been in Seville. It’s speculated that these Vikings stayed for awhile and interbred with the population in Northern Spain. In some places Spanish people today share traditions with cultures found in Scandinavia! These traditions are neither Spanish nor Celtic but clearly Viking. In some towns in the region there are festivals and pilgrimages that pay homage to their Viking roots but because Vikings in Spain have really not been studied there is a lack of archaeological evidence for them being there. Research in Viking Iberia is ongoing presently.
Iceland’s Native American DNA:
Vikings in Spain (Iberia):
Viking Iberia Website: